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Top 10 tips for battling bullying at work

Over the past few weeks, iHR Australia shared the personal stories of three people who have experienced bullying.

Tough boss or big bully? Part 1

Tough boss or big bully? Part 2

Tough boss or big bully? Part 3

This article summarises the key messages and lessons learnt from these personal accounts and provides some guidance on strategies organisations can implement to minimise the likelihood of workplace bullying occurring.

A few common factors stand out from the three personal stories:

• Each individual experienced serious personal impacts ranging from lowered confidence in their performance to stress-related sick leave.

• Although the stories came from workers in different industries, none of the three was a junior or inexperienced employee, which shows that seniority does not provide immunity from bullying.

• All the stories ended with the worker leaving the organisation; each in a different way.

These personal accounts highlight that bullying often happens in unexpected ways; to a worker who is actually a high achiever rather than an underperformer or to a manager who speaks up about inappropriate behaviour. However, the results are often the same, damage to the individual and to the business.

Workplaces where bullying is a feature generally experience increased absenteeism, increased turnover, loss of productivity and higher frequency of workers' compensation claims both physical and psychological.

So what can your organisation do to ensure that you don't end up with a culture of workplace bullying?

1. Treat workplace bullying like any other OHS matter by taking a zero harm approach.

2. Create and maintain a positive workplace culture with respect to not tolerating workplace bullying.

3. Assess the culture in your workplace by utilising tools such as 360 feedback and employee satisfaction surveys. Consider a workplace Inquiry or assessment if you are aware of underlying tensions which may need to be looked into.

4. Ensure that you have an up to date, comprehensive anti-bullying policy.

5. Ensure that the policy includes adequate procedures for dealing with complaints of bullying.

6. Ensure all employees are aware of the policy, have copies of the policy and understand the policy.

7. Ensure all employees, including all levels of management, are trained on workplace bullying and the anti-bullying policy, plus other relevant items your organisation may have such as a Code of Conduct or values statement.

8. Ensure that there is regular refresher training for employees including all levels of management.

9. Train managers to understand the difference between performance management/coaching and bullying.

10. As a manager, be alert to bullying behaviour and, where necessary, deal with the inappropriate behaviour promptly and in accordance with your anti-bullying policy.

Managing Director of iHR Australia, Stephen Bell, added; "The concept of the tough boss must not be confused with the boss that has high standards and is clear and honest about accountability. It's quite OK for a manager to be firm in regard to their expectations, but not unreasonable. However, those who indulge in highly autocratic behaviours on a very regular basis need to understand that the style is out of date. In the vast amount of work I do across Australia and Asia, I have observed that educated people, especially generations X and Y don't respond favourably to highly autocratic behaviour and find themselves disengaged from such managers.

For those of us with reflex actions that tend toward being autocratic my message is simple: don't be ashamed, be prepared to change your style. One behaviour I highly recommend to all 'tough bosses' to practice is 'whenever possible listen before you speak'. The positive impacts on culture will be overwhelming."

iHR Australia offers EEO, anti-bullying, harassment and discrimination training for employees, managers and executives. Our public courses for managers are delivered across Australia and we can deliver training at your premises which can be tailored to suit your organisation. We also offer online EEO training and blended learning solutions.

For more information on all our services; including help with policies and procedures, workplace inquiries, training and surveys call 1300 884 687 or make an online enquiry.

iHR Australia would like to say thank you for all the comments and responses we received on our website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages during our 3 part bullying series. iHR Australia strives to create safe, healthy workplaces for all.


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