When is a "bad boss" a bully?

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When is a “bad boss” a bully?

When is a “bad boss” a bully?

5 December 2013

Discussions in the press about bad behaviour by bosses may show that bullying behaviour could be considered just “normal” bad behaviour by some.

In an article in the Age this week entitled “Five ways to manage a bad boss” some of the behaviour listed may be familiar to many employees.

The article describes 5 different types of boss and includes examples of poor management behaviour which include micromanagement, setting unreasonable timeframes for tasks and nitpicking.

Interestingly, many of these behaviours when forming an ongoing pattern could be categorised as bullying behaviour in some circumstances, even though managers committing these offences may simply be labelled “bad bosses” by many.

Taking a look at the draft Benchbook released by the Fair Work Commission ahead of its new jurisdiction on bullying which comes into effect in January 2014, we can see several examples of real world bullying some of which include the “bad boss” behaviours mentioned. One case study mentions “raising performance issues about clerical mistakes that ‘were so inconsequential as to be almost laughable’” and “changing working hours with one working day’s notice and without explanation” as well as “inconsistent disciplinary action when compared with others.”

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Although these cases have not been brought under the changes to the Fair Work Act but have come from other legal contexts it is telling that they have been chosen for inclusion in the Benchbook. It is also interesting to note that the nitpicking and micromanagement type behaviours sit alongside various other cases where the behaviour may be seen as more obviously inappropriate, such as physical assault or verbal threats.

Therefore it is clear that employers should be aware of their obligations to prevent bullying behaviour in the workplace, including providing workplace training for managers on their responsibilities and training for staff on appropriate behaviour, particularly as some poor behaviour may be considered “normal” by some employees and managers.

As the Fair Work Commission predicts a large number of applications being made under its new jurisdiction, being prepared is paramount.

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