Violence usually involves physical assault or the threat of physical assault. Bullying and violence can both result from conflict and can occur together. However, bullying does not always result in violence. Threats to harm someone, violence and damage to property are criminal matters that should be referred to the police.
Identifying and controlling the risk of Workplace Bullying
Bullying is best dealt with by taking steps to prevent it before it becomes a risk to health and safety. Using a risk management approach will assist in the process. Consultation with workers and their health and safety representatives must occur at each step of the risk management process.
- Identify bullying risk factors
- Assess the likelihood of bullying occurring and its impact
- Control the risks by eliminating them, or if not reasonably practicable, minimising the risk as far as reasonably practicable, and
- Review the effectiveness of the control measures.
The WHS Act requires that you consult, so far as is reasonably practicable, with workers who carry out work for you who are (or are likely to be) directly affected by a work health and safety matter. Consultation must also be carried out in the development of any policies and procedures related to bullying, including complaints procedures.
PCBU’s should develop a Bullying policy in consultation with workers and their health and safety representatives. The policy should set out the standards of expected behaviour and make a clear statement that inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated
A workplace bullying policy should contain:
- A statement that the organisation is committed to preventing bullying
- The standards of appropriate behaviour,
- A process to encourage reporting, including contact points
- A definition of bullying with examples of bullying behaviour, and
- The consequences for not complying with the policy.
An appropriate communication strategy for the policies and procedures relating to bullying and harassment will encourage widespread awareness of the health and safety impacts of workplace bullying and endorse the need to be proactive in preventing workplace bullying.
Bullying is a hazard as it may affect the emotional, mental and physical health of workers.
The WHS Act defines ‘health’ as both physical and psychological health. Therefore the duties imposed under the WHS Act to ensure health and safety also includes ensuring the emotional and mental health of workers.
In some workplaces, workers may feel that they are the subject of bullying, harassment and discrimination and it may be a misunderstanding of what bullying, harassment and discrimination is that leads to dissatisfaction within the workplace. To assist in clarifying, we are going to detail the differences. The risk of bullying is minimised in workplaces where everyone treats each other with dignity and respect.
Workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers, that creates a risk to health and safety.
‘Repeated behaviour’ refers to the persistent nature of the behaviour and can refer to a range of behaviours over time.
‘Unreasonable behaviour’ means behaviour that a reasonable person, having regard for the circumstances, would see as victimising, humiliating, undermining or threatening.
Impact of workplace bullying
Bullying can be harmful for the workers who experience it and those who witness it. Each individual will react differently to bullying and in response to different situations. Reactions may include any combination of the following:
- Distress, anxiety, panic attacks or sleep disturbance
- Physical illness, such as muscular tension, headaches and digestive problems
- Reduced work performance
- Loss of self-esteem and feelings of isolation
- Deteriorating relationships with colleagues, family and friends
- Depression and risk of suicide.
Those persons who witness bullying may experience guilt and fear because they cannot help or support the affected person in case they too get bullied. Witnesses may feel angry, unhappy or stressed with the workplace and may become unmotivated to work.
Bullying can also damage organisations. It can lead to:
- High staff turnover and associated recruitment and training costs
- Low morale and motivation
- Increased absenteeism
- Lost productivity
- Disruption to work when complex complaints are being investigated, and
- Costly workers’ compensation claims or legal action.
Another two-fifths claim to have been at the receiving end of bullying, three per cent of which had submitted a formal complaint.
Approximately 62,600 public service workers were asked to participate in the survey and a reported 18,500 people responded. This large sample reportedly indicate that the results are “highly reliable” due to the large size of the sample.
The opposition implied that the results indicate a growing problem in Victoria’s public workforce. They believe the problem is compounded by the Baillieu Government’s intention to cull 4200 bureaucrats.
Victorian Parliament passed “Brodie’s Law” law year which reformed existing offences of stalking so that it clearly covers serious bullying or harassment. Now the new legislation potentially covers threats and abusive language or any act that seems to indicate stalking.
WorkSafe has yet to prosecute a state government department for bullying despite rumours of a growing culture of stress within the public service in areas such as youth justice and prisons.
The extent of workplace bullying in Australia is undetermined, which enforces the beliefs of some that a Senate inquiry is currently needed.
The extent of bullying in Australian workplaces is unclear – a reason for a Senate inquiry into the issue under way at the moment. Reports have indicates that Victoria suffers from a “relatively high figure” number of bullying and harassment incidents due to a workplace education campaign that potentially put mental stress.
The median average of weeks taken off by victims of workplace bullies was 13.
Nick Clements stated that he was squired with a highly flammable cleansing solvent and then was subsequently set on fire by a co-worker at Haeusler’s farm machinery dealership in Victoria. Clements, who had been diagnosed with high functioning autism as a child, was nine days into a two-week trial period when the incident occurred. Clements was reportedly squirted in the crotch with the flammable substance.
Nathan Frizzle, the apprentice who set Clemments on fire is still employed at Haeusler’s after pleading guilty to the assault.Frizzle was granted a 12-month good behaviour bond and a just a $500 fine.
Prior to the court ruling, WorkSafe, decided it would not take any action because of the police charges.With most options expired, the Clements family plans to lodge a victims-of-crime complaint with the Director of Public Prosecutions.
WorkSafe’s decision has left Clements and his family very disappointed.
“I find it a disgusting outcome. It feels like a real spit in the face to see what he got,” said Clements.
Famed anti-bullying lawyer Moira Rayner is heading efforts to establish a national tribunal to allow civil claims.Rayner believes WorkSafe’s behavior to Clements is not exclusive to him and the watchdog organisation should have done much more to help him
“I have always regarded bullying as a failure by management and all our bullying law is unsatisfactory because they don’t give the individual a personal right of redress,” she said.
“If they make a WorkCover claim or a WorkSafe claim and it doesn’t end up because of technicalities in addressing their problems, then the person who’s been bullied, victimised and psychologically if not physically harmed may well have on top of that a sense of grave injustice.
“When someone could have been killed in a classic apprentice-playing-with-fire incident, there should have been an immediate and effective intervention in the workplace so the employer, the employees and the apprentices got the message very loud and clear that this could have ended up in a manslaughter charge.”
Sarah Gregson’s Report into Workplace Bullying at UNSW, was initially reported in Herald early this year, and revealed a culture of bullying and intimidation at the post-secondary institute. It has since been submitted to a federal inquiry into workplace bullying . Gregson, an academic at the institute and the local branch representative of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), stated her intention to lobby the union to extend her survey throughout a multitude of institutions.
Gregson has reportedly sent the report to a variety of activists throughout the union. She stated that the activists seem to be aware of many of the issues and believe a continual campaign is required. It is her hope that a parliamentary inquiry would recommend an improved legislation in the area.
An email to staff from Neil Morris, VP of university services at UNSW rejected the claims made in Gregson’s report. Morris claimed that there was no pattern of bullying and the methods of research were not dependable.
Morris stated that survey methodology was flawed because of numerous factors. He cited the surveys broad definition of “bullying” and numerous other situations as reasons why the survey is not sound. He also stated that the number of complaints and the amount of staff the survey claims to have been bullied do not correlate. The report revealed that majority of the 552 participants had experiences or observed bullying behaviours. 68 percent of participants said they had been bullied while 83 percent had been a witness.
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ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe revealed that an investigation in to workplace bullying which was conducted at the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT), is now completed.The investigation was launched as a result of several ideas submitted to WorkSafe ACT by various CIT employees regarding CIT measures for handling bullying and harassment situations.
McCabe said that the WorkSafe ACT investigation determined that the CIT had breached the Territory’s health and safety legislation.
The investigation revealed that the CIT lacks an adequate prevention and response system for incidents of bullying and harassment in the workplace.
WorkSafe issued an Improvement Notice that compels the CIT to improve a number of aspects of its systems and procedures regarding bullying and harassment of staff. The CIT has six months to fulfill all the requirements in the notice in order to ensure that the organization has an efficient prevention and management system for this human resources issue.
The report regarding the bullying and harassment systems at CIT is called WORKSAFE ACT INVESTIGATION INTO COMPLIANCE BY THE CANBERRA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (CIT) WITH ITS DUTIES UNDER THE WORK SAFETY ACT 2008 AND THE WORK HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT 2011 IN RESPONSE TO ALLEGATIONS OF BULLYING AND HARASSMENT AT THE CIT . It can be accessed and downloaded in PDF format from WorkSafe’s website.
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The ACT Greens launched the online survey to find out if people were satisfied with the complaints process upon reporting incidents of intimidation. Greens MLS Amanda Bresnan maintains that the survey is completely anonymous .
Bresnan stated that they have acknowledge that the workplace has a very high incidence of bullying. Therefore, they have are trying to gather more information as to why incidents go unreported.
Bresnan added that some individuals have been dissatisfied with the response they get upon filing reports. She indicated that this dissatisfaction could be a main reason for the lack of reporting. She alleges that the government needs to do more on the issue of workplace bullying because other states have introduced expertise in the legislation which could potentially increase confidence in the system.
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Safe Work Australia has made light of changes to its draft code on workplace bullying following complaints by both unions and employer groups that the code was not specific enough about what constitutes bullying.
SFA spokesperson Ingrid Kimber stated that 70 out of 331 submissions on broader OHS issues, were related to the draft bullying code.According to Kimber (in her remarks to SmartCompany), the body is considering having an expert in the field advise them on the matter.Depending on how drastic of the changes, it may be released once again for public comment.
The draft code on workplace bullying falls under the legislation of the OHS Harmonisation laws which have been approved federally in various states. Of course, Victoria, WA, Tasmania and SA did not legislate in time to meet the January 1 deadline.
According to the draft code, workplace bullying is defined as “repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety”
The following examples constitute as bullying:
- Abusive or offensive language,
- Gossiping and spreading malicious rumours
- Regularly making someone the brunt of practical jokes,
- Unreasonably overloading a person with work or not providing enough work,
- Deliberately changing work arrangements such as rosters and leave to inconvenience a particular worker
The Australian Council of Trade Unions has however, stated that the code fails to address workplace bullying with the same level of specificity and seriousness as any other workplace hazard or risk.
The code, according to critics, must make it clear that the bullying it targets is a “pattern of behaviour”
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry stated that there needs to be a clear difference between feeling aggrieved and what is systemic, inappropriate behaviour” since normal managerial conduct should be seen as bullying behaviour.
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Some of the allegations include; being locked in rooms, public berating, and a lack of shifts after clashing with managers.A man outside of the interviewees, claims he spent two days in the hospital after being forced to teach a first-aid class despite suffering an asthma attack.
First-aid trainer Anthony Mesman stated that he believed it to be one of the worst places he has even been employed by. Mesman claims that there was distinct atmosphere of fear in the workplace.There was previously a police inquiry into an alleged case where two managers locked a first-aid trainer in a room. However, the case was dropped because of a lack of witnesses.
WorkSafe acquired access to documents which prompted their investigation. The documents contain the testimonial of a former health and safety officer who claims that a manager constantly intimidates, harasses, and bullies trainers to the detriment of their health. This account also alleges that other managers support this behaviour within the training unit.
Ambulance Employees Australia secretary, Phil Cavanagh warned the CEO of St. Johns that a culture of bullying, harassing and victimising was brewing within the organization because of some managers.
Deputy CEO Theron Vassiliou said St John Ambulance Victoria claims that the organisation has a strong anti-bullying policy and any claims or allegations are promptly investigated and dealt with appropriately.
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When one hears talk of “bullying”, initial thoughts can automatically equate the word with elementary school, wedgies, and being picked on by the “bigger kid”. However, bullying is a very real reality for many people – adults included—and it is still every bit as wrong as it was in elementary school. The only difference is that the school has been swapped with an office building, or a factory, or any other kind of workplace. While wedgies may not be the norm, and your lunch money may not be at risk, bullying can be every bit as demeaning as it was in school.
What is Workplace Bullying?
Workplace bullying includes verbal, physical, psychological abuse conducting by a higher up office employee (or employer) or another person (s) at work. If you (or a fellow employee) are constantly subjected to hurtful remark that demean you, your work, or really any characteristic that you identify with; then it is considered workplace bullying. If you are a manager, not dealing with workplace bullying can cause your employees to be less active, less confident, depressed, and isolated.
It is important to receive the proper Human Resources training in order to ensure that your business maintains its Workplace Compliance requirements. Moreover, it is important for employees to receive the training to ensure the well-being of all employees which subsequently would ensure that performance stays on top.Managers who have received quality training will know how to identify and deal with bullying in the workplace. Having the quality knowledge from a Bully Prevention Training course will teach you or your employees how to look out for the signs of bullying so that it can be avoided all-together.
Other Forms of harassment in the workplace include; sexual harassment and discrimination.
Sexual Harassment can include any unwelcomed physical contact, overtly sexual comments, sex based insults as well as other inappropriate and uncomfortable acts.
It is the responsibility of the employee to ensure the well-being of employees and thus, free of sexual harassment. Having the right training in sexual harassment can teach people to understand their rights and responsibilities as dictated by the equal opportunity and discrimination legislation.
Discrimination is another form of harassment in the workplace. Receiving the proper training would provide the knowledge needed to comprehend what inappropriate workplace behaviour is, and how to avoid it. Training in discrimination and equal employment opportunity (EEO) would ensure that employees are compliant with the anti-discrimination legislation, and would enable participants to receive a Certificate of Competency. Discrimination awareness will teach people to treat everyone with respect and without harassment.
If you or an employee initially does not like the job, then they definitely don’t want to be bullied as well. Alertforce’s Compliance Certified Human Resource courses will teach participants how to identify, deal with, and essentially—prevent workplace harassment; while maintaining a productive workforce.
WorkSafe, the agency that investigates cases of bullying and other human resources/occupational health and safety concerns have found themselves being accused of bullying. The accusation has been subject to requests for independent inquiry.
The Age has conducted an investigation that determined that many employees find themselves working in a environment built on fear and bullying by their bosses.About 100 bullying cases have been investigated by WorkSafe over the last five years. Over 20 of the bullying incidents occurred this past year.Senior executives at WorkSafe have indicated that they were aware of approximately 8 bullying-related cases that are being investigated.
According to a former employee (in an interview with The Age), employees are very afraid to talk about the incidents of bullying. The former staff member can’t fathom how WorkSafe can advise others how to deal with bullying incidents, if the organisation itself has its own cases. This investigation follows the sudden resignation of a prominent executive who was accused of bullying and discrimination.
Employee morale at WorkSafe has apparently dropped drastically, according to an employee survey. The survey indicated that one third of employees felt that their bosses did not care about them, their safety, or wellbeing.
An inspector for The Age has stated that one department of WorkSafe contains some of the biggest bullies than in any other department. A cold, fearful environment exists that has left many employees in tears on a daily basis.
Roberta Barnettt,a former policewoman has been granted over $100,000 after she complained of bullying while being a policewoman.. The Policewoman was bullied following a incident in which she refused the advances of a senior female officer.
Work Health Court had previously determined that Barnett had been mentally injured from her experiences at work and had faced excessive punitive action from her female senior staff sergeant.Barnett faced dismissal in 2008 after she remaining on sick leave for an extended period of time.She will now receive over 90 thousand dollars in compensation for lost income. She will also receive funds to cover her medical costs.
Self-made billionaire and stock trader Ray Dallio has updated his policy’s and procedure for his company Bridgewater Associated to firing anyone who has been overheard spreading malicious gossip three times about their colleagues .
Bullying in the work place took a new twist when Dean Hutchinson was smacked with a 30cm piece of wood across the temple of his head. (more…)