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The Truth of Bullying in the Workplace

You may not even realise that it’s happening all around you, but the sad truth is that hundreds of thousands of employees are being bullied and harassed within the workplace each and every day across the country. According to statistics conducted by the Beyond Bullying Association, 2.5 to 5 million Australians will be victims of workplace harassment and bullying at some point in their professional career.

So if you thought bullying only occurred in the schoolyards, think again.

What constitutes bullying in the workplace?

Any type of physical, verbal, or psychosocial intimidation and abuse committed by an employer, manager, person, or group within your place of work is considered workplace bullying.

While bullying does occur as obvious, overt attempts at physical and verbal abuse there are also times when it is more subtle. Some common acts of bullying within the workplace are:

  • Raising a voice, shouting, or using offensive language toward an employee.
  • Threatening or engaging in physical violence.
  • Repeatedly using verbal attacks and derogatory remarks toward an employee (including their culture, their sex, their family, and their race) or their work performance.
  • Isolating particular employees or excluding them from joint tasks or workplace activities.
  • Intimidating or psychologically harassing (playing “mind games”).
  • Assigning tasks that are impossible to complete (such as a deadline that cannot be met) so an employee is forced to fail.
  • Withholding necessary information so that an employee’s work performance is damaged.
  • Forcing scheduling conflicts within the work roster to create deliberate conflict for an employee.

Research done by the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 72% of bullies are bosses, managers, or supervisors. It should be noted, though, that not all acts by a boss or manager are considered bullying. While some actions may not seem fair, a boss is allowed to demote, sack, or discipline an employee as long as there is a good reason to do so.

What is bullying costing companies?

Businesses have to pay a hefty price when bullying runs rampant within the workplace. In a 2007 survey, turnover rates are directly affected by workplace bullies – 40% of bullied workers will voluntarily leave their position if they are the target of bullying.

Labour turnover is not the only cost organisations have to worry about. According to a leading employment agency in Australia, Drake Personnel, the actions of a repeat offending bully in the workplace can diminish the performance of the victim by 50% and up to 33% for other employees within the office.

Indirect costs from bullying (which include productivity loss, employee absenteeism, and legal costs for injury claims) are estimated to cost anywhere from $6 – $13 billion in Australia according to a statement released by WorkCover (ACT). The startling cost of workplace bullying and harassment can multiply even higher when other hidden factors are taken into consideration with the Australian Human Rights Commission estimating costs soar as high as $36 billion per year.

What’s being done to prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace?

The truth is one of the reasons bullying is such a problem is because there is a lack of action against known bullies. In a 2007 survey, it was shockingly revealed that bullies almost always “get away with it” once bullying claims are made. Negative consequences only occurred during 23% of cases studied, 50% of employers took no action whatsoever, and a shocking 12.5% actually promoted the workplace bully to a higher position within the organisation.

Recent measures by the Federal Government aim to reduce bullying and harassment in the workplace. The Workplace Relations Minister stated that a resolution mechanism within the FWC has been proposed that will help workplaces deal with bullying in a practical way as quickly as possible. The proposed plan is aimed to help prevent re-occurring instances of bullying by giving the Fair Work Commission the ability to work with state regulators so investigation and any necessary prosecution can be dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible.

Dowell Solutions is very aware and passionate about educating their clients about bullying and harassment in the workplace and has walked away from clients that have demonstrated such behaviours. Dowell Solutions Manager, Kylie Dowell, can personally relate to the effects of bullying and harassment in the workplace and often shares with others how she left a management position in previous employment because of it.

If you are concerned about bullying and harassment in the workplace why not give Dowell Solutions a call to see how we can help you resolve your concerns.