Former employee awarded $1 million in workplace bullying case illustrates big risk for Australian businesses
A former employee of a government agency has been awarded more than $1 million, after the bullying she was subjected to – which stemmed from one single incident – left her unable to work again. The payout was awarded for the consequences of a single incident that took place five years ago, when the woman attended a meeting with her supervisors on an internal job application. Instead of providing measured advice on an error she had made, her bosses began making a number of false accusations about inappropriate conduct.
Despite clearly upsetting the employee, the managers continued their attack. “I was sobbing and doubled over and they were still making allegations about information sharing,” the woman claimed. After her request to be transferred out of the department was refused, she was subject to further humiliation, with her superiors “sitting me outside their office and the team I used to manage”.
In spite of an internal investigation, which the former employee claims was one-sided and unfair, the seriousness of the matter was not addressed and by May 2012, the woman had left the organisation feeling “hopeless”. Examined by a number of psychiatrists, she has since been found to have a mental injury that has left her unable to return to work – ever. The damages awarded in this case reflect the impact the episode has had on the woman.
Cases such as these demonstrate the zero tolerance the community now has for incidents of workplace bullying. It is important that all workplaces identify and address any incidents of bullying or harassment, particularly if such behaviour has been normalised within an organisation.
With workplace bullying and harassment cases continuing to find their way to the courts, it’s now crucial for organisations to become fully equipped with strategies to address and prevent such incidents before they escalate to costly litigation and irreparable harm to your organisation’s culture.
To ensure your leadership is ready to tackle such incidents, its essential that you provide the right support and training. iHR Australia’s Custodians of Culture for Managers, a two-part workshop for supervisors and management staff, could be the ideal refresher on strategies for developing and maintaining positive workplace culture.
Held over a full day, the first part of the day focusses on Managers’ and Team Leaders’ responsibility as custodians of your organisation’s workplace culture, and identifies the key elements of the manager’s role in preventing and effectively managing bullying, harassment and discrimination issues in the workplace. In the second part of the day participants, gain an understanding of how to approach and conduct conversations to address inappropriate workplace behaviour.
A key educational component of the workshop is iHR’s unique Workplace Reality Theatre. In this approach, a range of workplace situations are re-enacted by two professional actors, allowing workshop participants to examine and discuss key behaviours, with the assistance of an expert facilitator.
Participants will also have the opportunity to undertake a session with one of the actors, so as to learn practical skills for effectively approaching difficult workplace situations.