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Is workplace bullying hurting families?

1 May 2014

Failing to address bullying and harassment in the workplace can not only impact on employees' health but can also damage the wellbeing of their families, according to a recent article.

The article from the Workplace Bullying Institute states that when an employee experiences bullying in the workplace, they may choose to ignore the issue due to the bully being in a position of power above them. However, the decision to endure the bullying could lead to significant issues in the future, as the individual suffers at work and at home.

Workplace bullying often leads to anxiety, stress and depression among victims, which typically impacts their ability to work effectively and efficiently. These feelings of distress tend to cling to individuals, meaning they carry them home at the end of each day.

Family members, particularly children, can absorb these emotional triggers and experience an indirect level of anxiety caused by the workplace bullying. While adult members of the household may be able to recover from this climate, children are typically less resistant to stress and anxiety and can become more prone to bullying in their own lives.

Another troubling impact of workplace bullying is anger displacement. Often, if an individual fears for their job security, they will avoid confronting their co-workers or managers regarding bullying. When an individual is bullied or harassed but feels powerless to respond, they often harbour feelings of resentment and anger that can emerge at a later time, such as in the home.

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The Workplace Bullying Institute is based in the U.S and conducts research into workplace bullying and related topics. Fortunately for Australian workers, anti-bullying legislation in Australia is designed to protect employees from bullying at work and provide avenues for addressing the problem.

That said, these further effects of workplace bullying have been shown in a recent case in Queensland where a victim of bullying at work experienced resultant psychological damage which left her unable to care for her child or herself. The Supreme Court of Queensland heard the case and awarded the complainant nearly $240,000.

With this danger in mind, employers can put measures in place to prevent workplace bullying, for example providing training to ensure all employees and managers understand how to recognise and respond to workplace bullying. In the right environment, individuals will feel comfortable reporting bullying, mitigating the risk of harbouring negative emotions.

Incidents must be properly dealt with, employers must undertake thorough and fair workplace investigations where necessary to ascertain if inappropriate behaviour is taking place and to demonstrate to employees that matters of this nature are viewed as serious by the organisation and dealt with accordingly.

iHR Australia offers extensive workplace bullying and harassment training and workplace investigation officer training that can be tailored to your business's specific needs.

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