9 steps to banishing bullies in your workplace

New anti-bullying provisions in the Fair Work Act that took effect 1 January make it possible for employees to go straight to the Fair Work Commission with their complaints. Are you ready?

When it comes to bullying in the workplace, prevention is the best strategy: make sure you create a workplace environment that stops bullying from happening. Here are 9 ways to banish bullies from your organisation:

1. Behave in a reasonable manner:  This is a bit tricky, since ‘unreasonable’ behaviour isn’t defined in the Act and will be interpreted by the Fair Work Commission depending on the facts of any particular case. A good rule to go by: If you would not like someone behaving towards you in a similar manner, then the behaviour is likely to be seen as unreasonable. (Note that this approach will not, however, avoid the problem of interpretation).

2. Don’t be aggressive or intimidating: This includes actual assault and threats of physical harm.

3. Don’t make belittling or humiliating comments: Don’t make comments that make fun of the individual (or more generally of their race, gender, etc). Belittling or humiliating comments can also include nasty nicknames.

4. Don’t victimise workers: Victimisation not only includes blaming workers for things they haven’t done, but also includes requiring them to work unreasonably; for example, unreasonably long hours, requiring unreasonable amounts of work, making employees do the work of colleagues, and inconsistent work and discipline requirements compared to colleagues.

5. Don’t spread malicious rumours: Most people like to know about the latest work gossip; but, again, this is an area where asking yourself ‘How would I feel if this happened to me?’ is a good strategy. A classic example of a malicious rumour occurs when someone is promoted unexpectedly and rumours of how he/she ‘got the job’ are spread.

6. Don’t make practical jokes or participate in ‘initiation’ of new workers: Initiation rites and practical jokes have received media attention over recent years because the behaviour seems so extreme to those outside the ‘group’. For example, a 16-year-old new apprentice was wrapped in cling wrap, whirled around on a trolley while covered in sawdust and glue, and had sawdust as well as a fire hose squirted into his mouth. There are no circumstances where that kind of behaviour is acceptable!

7. Don’t exclude workers from work-related events: Productive workplaces are inclusive ones; excluding certain individuals from work-related events (e.g., social club events or meetings) will not create the productive environment you desire. Certain types of workplaces may make this sort of bullying more intolerable than others; for example, the police force and other work environments in which individuals spend long periods working closely with others, often in stressful conditions.

8. Don’t have unreasonable work expectations: The most obvious examples of unreasonable work expectations include requiring unreasonable hours and amounts of work, refusing to provide assistance, and creating performance management issues about inconsequential work errors another example of this sort of bullying.

9. Get some professional help: Australian Business HR Consulting can help you comply with the new provisions with our ‘Banish the Bully’ program. Here’s what we’ll do for you:

  • Review how well your organisation is equipped for the new provisions
  • Help you to develop or update your anti-bullying policy to ensure you’re in line with the changed legislation
  • Conduct an information session on bullying for your managers, to teach them to recognise the most common signs of bullying and how to manage situations that crop up.

Interested in finding out more? Contact Larry Forsyth to learn about what our Banish the Bully program can do for your organisation, or to book your sessions.

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Larry Forsyth
Senior Manager, WHS & HR Consulting Services
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