Last week the Sydney Morning Herald reported some surprising behavioural and cultural issues which have come to light from inside a NSW government agency. The agency in question often deals with complaints from others regarding bullying, but is now needing to look inward at what appears to be a serious ongoing problem.


The article reports that measures taken to tackle bullying issues have not been enough and that a significant cultural shift is needed, although this may be tough to achieve. Despite the existence of a hotline for staff to call anonymously, only small numbers were coming forward, which was taken as a positive sign by the employer. Unfortunately it was later discovered that staff reticence had more to do with fear of exposure, as some employees who had contacted the hotline had subsequently had their identities revealed. This coupled with a lack of faith in any remedial action being taken meant that the problem was more widespread than first thought.

University of NSW senior lecturer Dr Carlo Caponecchia described the situation as a ”toxic and unsafe work environment with a broken culture”.


Speaking about workplace culture at a recent seminar series, business leader Phil Di Bella noted that culture should form the basis of people decisions for managers and that culture cannot simply be created by management for the organisation using a “top-down” approach. Discussing culture in relation to people management, recruitment and retention, Aussie Farmers Dairy chief executive Peter Skene further stated that employers should be mindful of how significantly one employee’s behaviour can affect the whole team, saying that “Attitudes are contagious.”

The problems faced by the NSW agency are now the subject of a parliamentary inquiry. The comments of experts about the case show that workplace culture is not something that should be taken lightly by employers. Allowing cultural problems to develop could pose a significant risk to a business and be difficult and costly to remedy once established.

Recent articles

Balance of probailities

Understanding Balance of Probabilities in Workplace Investigations

Author - John Boardman, Director Workplace Relations The more serious the allegation, the more serious consideration should be given by...
Remote or isolated work

The impact of poor support on remote and isolated workers: Summary of the webinar

Remote and isolated work encompasses more than just working in a home setting; it taps into the narrative of employees...
Reasonable management.

What isn’t Workplace Bullying? Reasonable Management.

Article updated on 15 April 2024 [Originally published in 2017] Workplace bullying is an organisational problem. It can happen in...
Trauma informed investigations

Trauma-informed workplace investigations: Prioritising ‘care’ over rigid processes

Interviewee: Kirsten Hartmann, Senior Workplace Relations Adviser/Workplace Investigator In August 2023, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) released four guiding...