Not so long ago a Learning & Development Manager approached me regarding the creation of a 5 to 10 minute anti-discrimination, harassment and bullying eLearning module for her managers. ‘They won’t do any training that lasts longer than that’ she said with a kind of ‘been there, done that’ tone of voice. I was ‘surprised’ to say the least and felt concern for their learning culture. But then it’s a common theme in many ‘high pressure’ environments these days. Those under pressure setting the ‘don’t bother me’ learning culture, and what’s worse, senior executives and L&D relenting to it.


iHR Australia’s Managing Director Stephen Bell

But then, to be honest, a lot of the eLearning compliance material out there is pretty average which doesn’t help to enthuse learners.

So given the impatience of learners these days, especially those at the senior level, I want to present you with a list of what every manager (and supervisor), from senior to frontline, must know in the anti-bullying, discrimination and harassment space in order that you are ‘compliant’. So here it is:

  1. Managers must have a general understanding of what is meant by unlawful discrimination and harassment as well as workplace bullying.
  2. Managers must know that your organisation has a policy and complaints procedure and where to find them. If you have eLearning, get your provider to embed the policy and complaints handling process within the program.
  3. Managers must know that there are federal and state laws that overarch the organisation’s policy. A general understanding of the focus and intent of these laws is important. A general knowledge of where to find further information is essential.
  4. Managers must know that their behaviour must comply with the policy.
  5. Managers must know that if they become aware of inappropriate or unlawful behaviour that they are obligated to do something ‘reasonable’ about it. It is a huge bonus if training provided to managers gives them information and practical skills on how they might respond, in particular how to have the often challenging discussions about poor behaviour.
  6. Managers must know how to respond to a complaint of discrimination, harassment and bullying in their workplace. This also means knowing the roles of HR, investigators and contact officers throughout any complaints handling process.
  7. Managers must know the general meaning of ‘duty of care’ and its application to workplace conduct. Also the implications of vicarious liability as far as the business is concerned and their own personal liability should they contribute to a person’s physical or psychological injury.
  8. Managers must know that a direct manager cannot conduct an independent investigation into an allegation of unlawful behaviour.  (Any investigator, including an internal investigator, should be appointed to conduct the investigation with clear stated written terms of reference.)
  9. Finally, managers must know that the organisation is ultimately responsible for how an issue is dealt with, sometimes this means that the chosen approach to handle a complaint may conflict with the desires of the complainant.


It is also of great benefit if managers are aware that in cases of unlawful discrimination, harassment or workplace bullying, the prior patterns of the respondent’s behaviour and the nature of the workplace culture, may materially influence the findings of an investigator, court or tribunal.

Therefore, the idea of a five minute ‘training’ event is outrageous. Inadequate training places organisations and its people at high risk; both legally and from a welfare point of view. Employees will be influenced by the importance their leaders put on this matter. If the leaders can only spare 5, 10 or even 15 minutes there will be no hope of modifying what are sometimes long-standing inappropriate behaviours at the frontline.


About the Author: Stephen Bell

Stephen Bell is the Founder/Managing Director of iHR Australia and is a leading expert in human resource capability modelling and an accomplished facilitator and coach in leadership, organisational development and business planning. Stephen has worked with both government and private enterprise and brings with him a wealth of practical knowledge on both the design and implementation of organisational development interventions. Stephen understands that corporate and Small Medium Enterprise management requires constant development to respond to changing work patterns in society.

Recent articles

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...
Reverse bullying

Reverse Bullying is a Threat to Your Workplace Culture: Here is What it Looks Like

Article updated on 15 March 2024 [Originally published in 2020] What is reverse [or upward] bullying? Simply put, reverse bullying...