Handling bullying at work


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Dr Annie Wyatt discusses workplace bullying - what is and isn't bullying and what to do if you are the target.

Presented on behalf of emPOWER Magazine and emPOWERonline.com.au

To listen to the full webinar visit www.empoweronline.com.au.

Published in: Career
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Handling bullying at work

  1. 1. Handling Bullying at Work
  2. 2. From confusion to clarity  Workplace bullying has certainly been in the news a lot lately. But when we ask people what it is, a great deal of confusion is apparent.  Confusion about what is happening leads to confusion about how to handle it. This can mean whatever is happening is handled badly or not at all.  The first step is to clarify what is happening. Only then will what has to be done become clearer.
  3. 3. LanguageLet’s begin with language:  Instead of calling someone ‘a bully’ my colleagues and I refer to ‘people who use bullying behaviours’ (that is because we are more than some of our behaviours).  Instead of calling someone ‘a victim’ we refer to ‘people who are targeted by bullying behaviours’ (‘victim’ loaded word implies helplessness).
  4. 4. What’s happening? Some of theunacceptable behaviours at work.  Bullying?  Mobbing?  Harassment?  Discrimination?  Violence?  Conflict?  Some or all of these simultaneously?
  5. 5. Workplace bullying criteria  Workplace based (where employees are targeted, not school children)  Repeated  Unreasonable behaviours  Causing, or with the potential to cause harm  If perpetrated by a group towards an individual or a group is sometimes called ‘mobbing’ – especially in Europe.(We will return and unpack these features shortly).
  6. 6. Harassment and discrimination  Unwanted behaviour that offends or humiliates.  Does not need to be repeated.  Relevant to some characteristic of the individual such for example gender where sexual harassment may occur as well as……  Other characteristics listed in Anti-Discrimination law and which are listed on the next slide.
  7. 7. DiscriminationDiscrimination is essentially less favourable treatmentbecause of some characteristic of the individual e.g.:   Gender   Homosexuality   Marital status   Age   Transgender status   Status as a carer   Race and ethno-religious background   Disability
  8. 8. Violence  Intentional use of threatened or real force (assault).
  9. 9. Conflict  Conflict is not necessarily bad  A disagreement through which the parties involved perceive a threat to their needs, interests or concerns  If unresolved, it can be a precursor to workplace bullying
  10. 10. What is happening?  None, some or all of these things may be happening simultaneously.  Beyond our scope today!
  11. 11. Do the differences matter? •  There are overlaps and differences. •  Different laws, resources and intervention strategies apply. •  OHS law applies to the hazard B bullying of workplace bullying. •  Bullying can happen to anyone (up, down, sideways). •  Bullying behaviour can be H unintentional. •  Bullying has its own set of V appropriate interventions. It is often incorrectly labelled as one of the other unacceptable behaviours and not handled well.
  12. 12. Returning to Workplace Bullying  Workplace based (context)  Repeated - what does this mean?  Unreasonable behaviours – what does this mean?  Causing, or with the potential to cause harm - what does this mean?
  13. 13. What workplace bullying is NOT?  (E.g. Occupational Health Safety and Welfare Act 1986 – Section 55A)   Reasonable managerial actions carried out reasonably for example performance management, justified decisions e.g. re promotion, disciplinary procedures for proven misconduct, managed re-structuring conducted in consultation with employees.
  14. 14. It is NOT ‘psychopathy’  Contrary to what some would have us believe, the workplace is not full of ‘psychos’ and this is a dangerous term to use for several good reasons.
  15. 15. Examples of workplace bullyingbehaviours  Social and physical isolation  Setting people up to fail  Undue public criticism  Malicious gossip  Undermining  Claiming the work of others as one’s own  Withholding necessary information/resources etc.
  16. 16. Potential costs to an individual (targetor bystander)  ‘Symptoms of stress’ e.g.   anxiety,loss of sleep, depression, suicidal thoughts (and in the case of witnesses, survivor guilt)  Fear, worry, relationship difficulties.  Reduced confidence and self-esteem.  High proportion of people targeted just leave.  There are also many costs to organisations of not managing workplace bullying.
  17. 17. What motivates workplace bullying?  Scarce resources - competition  Envy  Conflict  Unintentional / intentional management ‘style’  Organisational cultural expectations / modelling  Payback  Push down and push back
  18. 18. Variables to considerWorkplace bullying is not as simple as ‘interpersonaldifficulties’. A number of variables are usually involvedsuch as:  Organisational culture (does it foster workplace bullying?)  Socio-economic factors (GFC)  Working arrangements (casual workers more precarious)  Organisational policies (are there any?)  Implementation of policies (how well are they implemented?)  Behaviours of various people (different responses to demands)  Perceptions of various people (different levels of tolerance)  History of various people (childhood trauma)  Characteristics of various people (controlling vs consultative)
  19. 19. A risk management approach  Bullying behaviour can be a health hazard.  An uncontrolled hazard can become an unacceptable risk in a workplace.  This means that the likelihood and consequences of not managing the risk can predictably cause damage to health and compromise the well-being of the organisation. The employer has a legal duty of care in this respect.  What can senior management / the organisation do?  A risk management approach is required just as for any other workplace hazard.
  20. 20. Risk management approach  Include in the organisation’s Risk Management Program:   Resourcing, development and implementation of Policies and procedures e.g. Code of Conduct. Complaints procedure, Respect Charter.   Auditing and monitoring – to identify problem areas before they become worse.   Thorough training of all stakeholders.   Encouragement of early reporting.   Providing timely follow up of reports e.g. damage control, investigation, support for staff.   Learning from experiences and continuous improvement.
  21. 21. What can a targeted person do?  Find information e.g. definitions, organisational policies and procedures.  Collect and document evidence – names, dates, witnesses.  Seek help – initially internally (within the organisation) via reporting systems, OHS consultation processes, complaints procedures (informal – formal).  Seek external support if required starting with family and friends, GP and occupational health and safety authorities e.g. WorkCover.  Consider choices and options. E.g. stay or go?  Be prepared for consequences – overt and covert.
  22. 22. More information…Websitewww.beyondbullying.com.auBloghttps://meanbusinessbloggerNew bookCaponecchia, C & Wyatt, A (2011) PreventingWorkplace Bullying. An evidence-based guide formanagers and employees. Allen&Unwin.Available at all good bookstores and on-line.