Preventing workplace bullying

Employers have the duty to provide a healthy and safe environment for all employees. Failure to manage bullying can have devastating consequences on an employee’s health and safety and can damage overall morale.

There are serious penalties for breaching workplace health and safety laws. Taking a proactive approach to preventing bullying is necessary. In certain circumstances, employees may feel afraid to report bullying so it is an employer’s responsibility to look out for signs that an employee may be facing bullying, i.e, increased absenteeism, change in work performance and so on.

Here are three ways to prevent bullying in your workplace:

Having a zero-tolerance policy
Creating a zero-tolerance policy is essential in helping to prevent workplace bullying. The policy should detail what behaviours are considered bullying and the consequences of not complying with the policy. Managers must lead by example by modelling respectful behaviours at all times. They must deal with unreasonable behaviour as soon as they become aware of it and ensure reports of workplace bullying are taken seriously and are properly investigated. Workers need to be thoroughly consulted if they report bullying behaviours.

Facilitating positive and respectful relationships
A large factor in workplace bullying is poor workplace culture and negative workplace relationships. Employers can help to promote better relationships by firstly ensuring managers and supervisors are positive leaders. As much of a workplace’s culture is driven by senior management, it is critical to ensure they are acting as good role models. Training and support needs to be provided for new or poor performing managers. Ensure senior managers are neutral, supportive, approachable and aim for fairness.

Encouraging reporting
Those who experience or witness bullying need to feel comfortable reporting the bullying and have faith that the report will be taken seriously and dealt with in a professional manner. A transparent and responsive process helps to encourage employees to report bullying behaviours immediately. Ensure responses to reports are consistent, effective and timely and make it clear that victimisation of those who report will not be tolerated.

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