Workplace Culture

With the topic of creating a good culture a challenge in almost every workplace, the AGCSA asked HR expert Vicki Crowe from the PGA, to take us through the issue of workplace bullying and what to do if it rears its ugly head at your facility.

 

One of the biggest issues with understanding a person’s claim that they are being bullied is that it’s subjective,  often emotive, and some say linked to issues that occurred in childhood that have been triggered. Depending on your personality, what upsets you often doesn’t upset another person and it can be difficult to understand their perspective.

From the bullying investigations I have undertaken, wanting to control others appears to be a common theme with bullies. It can be tricky to know how to deal with bullies. Some experts say to stand up to them, others say ignore them. No matter which approach you take, dealing with bullies can be exhaustive, time-consuming and non-productive in the workplace. 

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) states that the action must be repeated and that the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety (this includes mental health). A one-off incident is not considered to be bullying. 

If you have someone bullying others in the workplace, deal with it quickly as it will only escalate and can lead to a stress claim or action in the FWC.

 

What is bullying?

 

You may be surprised with what bullying looks like. By definition, workplace bullying is verbal, physical, social or psychological abuse by your employer or manager, another person or a group of people at work.  It includes;

  • Repeated hurtful remarks or attacks, or making fun of your work or you as a person;
  • Sexual harassment, like unwelcome touching and sexually explicit comments and requests that make you uncomfortable;
  • Excluding you or stopping you from working with people or taking part in activities that relates to your work
  • Playing mind games, ganging up on you, or other types of psychological harassment;
  • Intimidation (making you feel less important and undervalued);
  • Giving you pointless tasks that have nothing to do with your job;
  • Giving you impossible jobs that can’t be done in the given time or with the resources provided;
  • Deliberately changing your work hours or schedule to make it difficult for you;
  • Deliberately holding back information you need for getting your work done properly;
  • Pushing, shoving, tripping, grabbing you in the workplace;
  • Attaching or threatening with equipment or any other type of object that can be turned into a weapon; and
  • Initiation or hazing – where you are made to do humiliating or inappropriate things in order to be accepted as part of the team.
 

Everyone has the right to be in a safe workplace free from violence, harassment and bullying. If you feel you are being bullied, don’t sit on it and hope it will go away – report it immediately

Reasonable Management Action

According to the Fair Work Act 2009, bullying does not include reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner. Reasonable management action may include;

  • Performance management processes;
  • Disciplinary action for misconduct;
  • Informing a worker about unsatisfactory work performance or inappropriate work behaviour;
  • Directing a worker to perform duties in keeping with their job;
  • Maintaining reasonable workplace goals and standards. A manager is entitled to carry out actions and give directions that are consistent with managing the workplace.

 

However, any reasonable management actions must not only be reasonable but must also be conducted in a reasonable manner. If not, their behaviour could still be considered to be bullying.

 

Report it

Everyone has the right to be in a safe workplace free from violence, harassment and bullying. If you feel you are being bullied, don’t sit on it and hope it will go away. Report it to your manager or another person in authority that you trust. If they don’t act upon it, you can apply to the FWC for an order to stop the bullying.

Bullying can only be dealt with by the FWC if the person is still working for the company. If you are a manager or the employer, you have a legal responsibility under Occupational Health and Safety and anti-discrimination law to provide a safe workplace. Employers also have a duty of care for all employees’ health and wellbeing while at work. For further information on how to handle bullying in the workplace, visit https://www.fwc.gov.au/disputes-at-work/anti-bullying 

Source: Australian Human Rights Commission