New workplace bullying laws

Workplace bullying

With thanks to the recruiters lounge for the image

“..On 1 January 2014, new workplace bullying laws will form part of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). These laws will entitle workers to apply to the Fair Work Commission, Australia’s industrial tribunal, alleging that they have been bullied in the workplace….”1 (DLA Piper Newsletter July 2013)

Why the increase in workplace bullying?

“..It has been predicted by the General Manager of the Fair Work Commission that there may be up to 3500 applications per year to the Fair Work Commission under these provisions…”1 (DLA Piper Newsletter July 2013)

This number is staggering..

On the one hand it talks to a society that is becoming less tolerant of unacceptable behaviours. On the other, a society that is becoming increasingly litigious and unaccepting of the right of management to manage.

My view though is that it talks to a society that really struggles to provide good, honest feedback in a way that is palatable to both the recipient and the giver of the feedback. It seems that often the feedback is either so vague that it is essentially useless or non-existent, or that things build to such an extent that the feedback is either aggressive or overwhelming because it has built and built.

I have conducted scores of bullying investigations and time after time, the findings are that decent communication and genuine on time feedback would have alleviated many of the issues that present.

So, what is workplace bullying?

DLA Piper describe the proposed laws as:

“..a worker is bullied at work if an individual or a group of individuals repeatedly behave unreasonably towards a worker, or a group of workers which the worker is a member and that behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

  • there must be repeated behaviour;
  • the behaviour must be unreasonable; and
  • that behaviour must create a risk to health and safety…”
Can you avoid workplace bullying?

As an employer, you can create an environment where all employees are treated with respect, and have a zero tolerance for bullying behaviours.

Equally important though, is to create a culture where feedback is welcomed rather than feared. Where feedback is viewed as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than as the precursor to something bad. And where true breaches of discipline are dealt with quickly, with proper natural justice and appropriate fairness.

Yes, having a bullying policy is important. Yes, training and awareness is critical. But a culture free of bullying goes much deeper than that.

What do you think? Have you seen examples of workplace bullying that were really just really poor management of a situation?

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