Many Australians underestimate the prevalence and detrimental effects of bullying and harassment in the workplace. Many employers don’t realise that workers affected by these problems usually “grin and bear it” because they’re afraid of losing their jobs. There is a certain stigma attached to bullying and harassment and many convince themselves that they are overreacting or that reporting the problem might make things worse. Unfortunately, the latter is sometimes a valid fear; this needs to change.
What is bullying and harassment?
Bullying occurs when someone who is weaker or in a more vulnerable situation is intimidated or mistreated. It can be a direct abuse of power, or deliberate or unintentional act(s), that lead to a health and safety risk for the victim(s). Bullying and harassment can be verbal, psychological, physical or social in nature. In today’s workplace, psychological distress is generally the most common result of bullying.
Some common forms of bullying and harassment include psychological harassment, isolation or exclusion, verbal abuse, and significant information withholding. Harassment involves behaviour that threatens or torments the victim. This is especially the case when it’s persistent in nature. Discrimination is another common problem; it involves the unfair treatment of a person or group, usually based on gender, age, ethnicity, race, or religion.
Bullying and harassment can occur in any workplace, both blue and white-collar. It’s important to recognise that bullying and harassment can occur both in-person and online (cyber-bullying).
The effects of bullying and harassment?
Bullying and harassment has detrimental effects on both individuals and organisations, including, but not limited to:
Loss of confidence
How to manage bullying and harassment?
Several steps need to be taken for effective management and prevention of bullying and harassment in the workplace. These include:
- Development of a policy and procedure
- Ensure the policy is included in the staff induction handbook
- Actively encourage reporting, and consult with workers regularly
- Provide accredited/formal external training
- Use internal toolbox talks to reinforce training
- Provide access to counselling services
- Take disciplinary action as needed
- Contact the relevant State Safety Authority.
It is just as important to create a mentally safe workplace for workers as it is a physically safe one. Dr. Grant Blashki, a lead clinical advisor at beyondblue, illustrates that four key elements must be present for a workplace to mentally safe:
- A positive workplace culture: workers must be able to feel happy about coming to work each day. They need encouragement and support.
- A reasonable level of stress: ensure that workers are not put under any more stress than necessary. Make sure to keep up excellent communication levels and be vigilant about boundaries between work and time off and reasonable deadlines—Foster as strong a sense of job security as possible.
- Be aware of mental health issues and provide support: it’s important to know about any existing mental health issues and support them.
- A zero-tolerance policy for bullying, harassment, and discrimination: having a zero-tolerance policy for bullying, harassment, and discrimination will promote a mentally safe workplace. A zero-tolerance policy ensures that all employees know what will and will not be tolerated.
Find out about WHS Training for Bullying & Harassment
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Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at www.workcover.nsw.au
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