As many as one in three employees say they have been bullied by their boss, and one in four were reduced to tears because of their boss, according to a workplace relations specialist.
Women are also more likely to feel bullied by a manager than men, with 38 per cent of women and 30 per cent of men believing they had been subject to bullying.
These are the findings of the State of Work research conducted on behalf of Employsure by Roy Morgan, which interviewed 600 Australian employees in August 2018.
The report suggested that bullying was most commonly experienced in so-called “white-collar” industries: education (40.6 per cent), health and professional care (39.5 per cent) and business professionals (37.2 per cent).
However, bullying was most complained about in the farming and food sectors, where more than half (52.6 per cent) claimed to have experienced it at the hands of their boss.
“The knock-on effect of the #MeToo movement is that bullying awareness is increasing, and employees have a greater awareness of their workplace rights, which makes workplace relations highly important for the success of a workplace,” Employsure’s Natalie Clark said.
“We need to be mindful that bullying isn’t just repeated name-calling or intimidating behaviour. Sometimes it can be deliberately changing the roster because it inconveniences the employee, or continually overloading an employee with deadlines that are impossible to meet.”
Ms Clark cautioned though that just because an employee felt they had been bullied, or that their boss had been overly harsh, bitchy or unnecessarily distant, doesn’t mean they had in fact been the victim of bullying.
Nevertheless, she said it is still a major concern for employers and senior managers.
“The vast majority of employers are incredibly invested in creating a positive workplace and want employees to feel supported. These results reinforce what employers are telling Employsure – that they find it difficult to have conversations about performance because it is really easy for employees to claim they feel victimised or bullied,” she said.
Ms Clark said that employers are fully entitled to allocate work and assess performance as part of normal business operations and do not amount to bullying when conducted in a reasonable manner according to the particular context.
She urged employers of all size to look at their documented policies on such matters and ensure they cover what can be expected of employees.
“Employers should provide clear instructions and training, ensure employees understand the business’ performance and disciplinary policies and procedures, and document all performance and disciplinary matters,” said Ms Clark.
Despite the findings, workplace bullying is not a situation that attracts considerable attention from the Fair Work Commission.
In its annual report for 2017-18, the commission revealed that it had dealt with 721 requests for stop bullying orders. That was the fourth-least common issue it received applications to address – and pales in comparison to the 13,595 claims that were lodged pertaining to unfair dismissal.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.