‘Hundreds’ of Education Department employees bullied

10 December 2013

An internal staff survey has revealed that hundreds of Education Department employees claim to have been bullied or witnessed bullying at work.

The Age has reported that the questionnaire, which was answered by 1191 employees, showed overall job satisfaction was deteriorating – falling from 72 per cent in 2009 to 65 per cent this year.

Overall 38 per cent of respondents said they witnessed bullying in the workplace in the past 12 months compared to 34 per cent in 2009. Meanwhile, 20 per cent reported directly experiencing bullying in 2013 compared with 15 per cent in 2009.

The results came to light in People Matter, a report which appears to be aimed at management. It stated employees’ views should not be overlooked.

“Whatever you do, do not ignore the perceptions of your employees – they have taken time to share their thoughts with you, now it is your turn to read, understand and respond to them,” the report said.

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Defined in the report as; “repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed to an employee or a group of employees that creates a risk to health and safety,” workplace bullying may be on the rise in the department, which experienced significant redundancies last year.

Among the most common issues put forward were verbal abuse, exclusion/isolation, psychological harassment, intimidation and deliberately withholding vital information.

The survey contains further measurements of satisfaction which, according to a department spokesman, did not correlate with the results on bullying. Other areas of the survey apparently pointed to a “supportive and collaborative work environment” the spokesman said, citing figures that showed 96 per cent of participants felt they received help and support from colleagues.

“We were surprised by this result because it is not consistent with complaints or related OHS issues that you would normally associate with an organisation that had a poor workplace culture,” he said. “A major component of the People Strategy we have just released addresses how people work with each other and how they live and breathe our departmental values on a daily basis. It is our intention to reverse this result over the next two years.”

In spite of the surprisingly high figures, only 2 per cent of the survey’s respondents submitted a formal complaint about bullying, compared with 3 per cent in 2011.

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