Taking a Proactive Approach to Bullying in the Workplace

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Home > Blog > Taking a Proactive Approach to Bullying in the Workplace

Bullying and harassment in the workplace is a serious issue that can have hefty legal, financial and cultural implications for the organisation. It is up to the business leaders to take a proactive approach to stop bullying and harassment and ensure it does not become commonplace or embedded into the day-to-day operations of the business.

If you are trying to detect or stamp out bullying in your workplace here are a few ways you can proactively do so.

Instil a culture of anti-bullying

“Whistleblowing” often has negative connotations – particularly in the workplace – but by being proactive and creating a culture that is supportive and non-discriminatory and normalises colleagues calling out poor behaviour, it will be far more difficult for one bad apple to spoil the barrel.

Promote role-modelling

Overt signs of bullying and harassment such as aggression or inappropriate comments should be highlighted and discussed with the employee, with the exchange noted in case of future offences.

More senior staff members should be held to a high standard, which means they should “walk the walk” when it comes to professional conduct and promoting an anti-bullying culture.

Formalise anti-bullying and harassment policies

As a business leader, you can instil a culture of standing up against bullying and harassment and promoting respect in the workplace by:

  • communicating the standards that are expected in the workplace through an easily accessible bullying and harassment policy and during the onboarding process;
  • conducting training (either online or face-to-face) on what behaviour is appropriate in the workplace and how to raise a grievance if you are the victim of misconduct;
  • conducting a “culture audit” throughout the whole organisation or a specific team, department or business unit where necessary; and
  • outsourcing your exit interviews to allow for more honest and open discussions in case covert bullying or harassment was the reason for the employee’s departure.

Provide a reliable, trustworthy and reasonable complaints process

Employees are entitled to a safe workplace and a process that allows them to raise a grievance about a fellow employee, including an employee who is their superior. The process should account for the fact that it can be difficult for an employee to raise a grievance if it is about their superior and, therefore, complaints should generally be directed to the Human Resources department to resolve.

Workplace bullying and harassment cases that end up with the Human Rights Commission or Fair Work Commission often do so as a result of a poor complaints system.

Any employee who is being bullied or harassed in the workplace should feel confident that their complaint will be taken seriously and that it can be done in a confidential manner without ramifications.

Timing is also important. Any complaints system or process should be monitored to ensure that the grievance is acknowledged and acted upon within a reasonable timeframe.

Alongside the system, the bullying and harassment policy should clearly outline the complaints system so that all employees are aware of the process, what type of behaviour should be reported and to whom and where to escalate the grievance if they believe it is not being taken seriously or if the conduct does not cease after the perpetrating employee has been spoken to about their conduct.

If you are a business leader who is seeking advice on how to proactively approach bullying and harassment in the workplace, speak to our HR consultants in Cairns today.