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Understanding and Managing Workplace Bullying


Published on

Professor Tim Bentley
Director of Healthy Work Group
Associate Head of School of Management, Massey University
Private Bag 102904, Albany, Auckland 0745

(Invited, Wednesday 26, Ilott Room, 3.50)

Published in: Health & Medicine, Career
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Understanding and Managing Workplace Bullying

  1. 1. Understanding and Managing Workplace Bullying Professor Tim Bentley Healthy Work Group School of Management Presentation to OHSIG 2011
  2. 2. A Bullying Culture
  3. 3. Workplace Bullying: The Problem <ul><li>Exposure is claimed to be a “more crippling and devastating problem for employees than all other kinds of work-related stress put together” (Einarsen et al., 2011). </li></ul><ul><li>New Zealand employers have a legal and moral duty to ensure that employees are not harmed while at work. </li></ul><ul><li>Several court decisions have ruled in favour of the targets of workplace bullying. </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasised the employers’ non-delegable duty to provide a safe working environment with the organisation, rather than the bully, held legally responsible. </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>Direct costs: turnover increases, recruitment and training, legal fees, temporary staff </li></ul><ul><li>Indirect costs: low productivity, high absenteeism, low morale and a stressful environment </li></ul><ul><li>In 2001, Griffith University estimated the costs of WB to the Australian economy at between A$6-13B pa. </li></ul><ul><li>In the UK, the cost of conflict at work = over 30B Stirling (=1000 pounds per working adult per year) </li></ul>Costs of Workplace Bullying
  5. 5. Defining Bullying <ul><li>Workplace bullying is: “a situation where a person feels they have repeatedly been on the receiving end of negative actions from one or more other people, in a situation where it is difficult to defend themselves against these actions. These negative actions could be physical or non-physical. A one-off incident is not defined as bullying” (Einarsen et al., 2011). </li></ul>
  6. 6. Bullying: What Does it Look Like? <ul><li>A repetition of destructive targeted behaviours </li></ul><ul><li>Is about the workplace bully’s control needs </li></ul><ul><li>Is about the focused and systematic selection of targets </li></ul><ul><li>Is not tough management </li></ul><ul><li>Can create chaos within an organisation </li></ul>
  7. 7. Examples of Bullying Behaviours Being humiliated or ridiculed Being ignored or excluded Insulting or offensive remarks Intimidating behaviour Persistent criticism of your work Excessive monitoring of your work Threats of violence or abuse Having important information withheld from you Ordered to do work below your level of competence Being exposed to an unmanageable workload Repeated reminders of your mistakes Gossip or rumours
  8. 8. Bullying and Harassment Harassment Bullying A single incident, a few incidents, many incidents Accumulation of many small incidents It is obvious you are being harassed May not realise you are being bullying for weeks or months Revealed through use of offensive vocabulary Trivial criticisms, false allegations, etc. Harassment has a strong clear focus (race, sex, disability) Focus is on competence (envy) and popularity (jealousy) Harassment often for peer approval, bravado, image Tends to be secret – no witnesses Target is perceived as easy Target is a threat to control, subjugate, eliminate Harasser lacks self-discipline Driven by envy and jealousy
  9. 9. Individual Costs of Bullying
  10. 10. Organisational Costs of Bullying
  11. 11. Typical Bullying Sequence The employer realises they have backed the wrong person, but are unlikely to admit it
  12. 12. A Pro-Bullying Environment
  13. 13. The NZ Workplace Bullying Study
  14. 14. Survey of Work and Wellness <ul><li>Study aims : </li></ul><ul><li>To determine the prevalence and nature of workplace stress and bullying in a range of workplaces from the health, education, hospitality and travel sectors. </li></ul><ul><li>To determine the impacts of bullying, and preventive practices currently in use. </li></ul><ul><li>Methodology : </li></ul><ul><li>Survey of Work and Wellness (quantitative survey) </li></ul><ul><li>Semi-structured interviews with managers </li></ul>
  15. 15. Survey of Work and Wellness <ul><li>1728 respondents. </li></ul><ul><li>Industry sectors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Health 42%; Education 27%; Hospitality 8%; Travel 19%. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Organisation roles </li></ul><ul><ul><li>59% non-managerial; 15% middle-level managers; 11% first-line supervisors; 5% senior managers. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Age: 16 to 71 (median 43 years). </li></ul><ul><li>79% female; 22% male. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Survey of Work and Wellness <ul><li>Prevalence of bullying (NAQ-R) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>17.6% (n=308) fitted the operational definition. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ Someone withholding information that affects your performance ’ ; ‘ Being ordered to do work below your level of competence ’ ; ‘ Being exposed to an unmanageable workload ’ most frequently cited. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Prevalence of bullying (Self-reported) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>12.6% of respondents reported being bullied at least ‘now and then’ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Prevalence of bullying (Witnessed) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>7.7% witnessed bullying ‘several times per week’ or ‘almost daily’. </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Reported Work Experiences of Targets
  18. 18. Reported Effects of Bullying
  19. 19. Most Effective Organisational Responses
  20. 20. Manager’s Survey (36 from surveyed orgs) <ul><li>30 believed workplace bullying was not much of a problem in their workplace. </li></ul><ul><li>15 believed bullying was recognised as a hazard. </li></ul><ul><li>26 believed workplace bullying was covered by policy. </li></ul><ul><li>25 believed their organisation had an effective reporting system for bullying. </li></ul><ul><li>24 would like to see guidelines/best practice for their industry. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Survey of OHS Practitioners
  22. 22. Survey of OHS Practitioners <ul><li>Background </li></ul><ul><li>Few studies concerned with the management of workplace bullying – none in NZ context </li></ul><ul><li>Survey designed to see if the findings from the Managers’ Survey (from our Survey of Work and Wellness) held up in a larger, more diverse sample </li></ul><ul><li>The study sought to determine whether our model for influences on organisational bullying prevention activities was valid </li></ul>
  23. 23. Sample Demographics <ul><li>252 respondents from 400 who attended ACC OHS workshops for managers </li></ul><ul><li>45% senior or middle managers </li></ul><ul><li>36% in non-managerial role </li></ul><ul><li>77% in role for 2 years or longer </li></ul><ul><li>Health, forestry, administration, manufacturing the most represented sectors </li></ul>
  24. 24. Survey of OHS Practitioners <ul><li>Results </li></ul><ul><li>70% reported WB in their organisation in the last 2 years </li></ul><ul><li>Low perceived understanding of the concept of WB (27%) </li></ul><ul><li>Leaders often not willing to confront bullies (41%) </li></ul><ul><li>WB had high impact on staff morale, motivation, productivity </li></ul><ul><li>2/3 organisations had a formal WB policy </li></ul><ul><li>41% recognised WB as a hazard </li></ul><ul><li>19% had given staff and/or management WB training </li></ul>
  25. 25. Survey of OHS Practitioners <ul><li>Results </li></ul><ul><li>Study found no support for the proposition that preventive activity is likely to be determined by managers’ perceptions of extent of the problem or perceived impact. </li></ul><ul><li>Study found support for the proposition that the perceived work environment predicted prevention activity </li></ul><ul><li>Work environment items: Leadership tolerance of WB, understanding of what is and isn’t acceptable, an effective reporting system and HR response </li></ul>
  26. 26. Study Conclusions <ul><li>Supports the importance of leadership and the establishment of an effective bully-free environment in the prevention of workplace bullying. </li></ul><ul><li>Factors best predicting anti-bullying activity were in-line with factors rated as most effective’ in Work and Wellness study. </li></ul><ul><li>Can’t rely on strategies at the interpersonal level alone </li></ul>
  27. 27. Towards a Bully-Free Organisation <ul><li>Key intervention areas that are important to being a BFO: </li></ul><ul><li>Workplace bullying policy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Embedded in communications, training and induction </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Performance Management </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Recruitment, promotion, discipline </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Human resources </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Aware, trained, proactive </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Healthy and well-organised workplace </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Leadership, values, work environment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Aim is to change individual attitudes and behaviours as well as the social context and work environment </li></ul></ul>
  28. 28. Recommendations for Managing Bullying
  29. 29. How WAVE Recommend Handling Complaints <ul><li>Take it seriously – the target is! </li></ul><ul><li>Listen non-judgmentally – remember bullies are clever at showing their good side </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on the issues – not the personalities </li></ul><ul><li>Work out the solutions – with the two parties </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure fairness, safety and non-vicitimisation – both parties </li></ul><ul><li>Get assistance if you are unsure </li></ul>
  30. 30. Useful Resources… <ul><li>WAVE – </li></ul><ul><li>Equal Employment Opportunities Trust. </li></ul><ul><li>Needham, A. (2005). Workplace Bullying: The Costly Business Secret. Penguin Books: Auckland. </li></ul><ul><li>The Healthy Work Group. </li></ul>@HealthyWorkGrp
  31. 31. Conclusions <ul><li>WB is a costly workplace problem and not well understood </li></ul><ul><li>It involves repetition of a ‘negative acts’ over time </li></ul><ul><li>It is often poorly managed </li></ul><ul><li>Stressful and poorly organised workplaces = conditions for WB </li></ul><ul><li>A supportive work environment is necessary for a BFO </li></ul><ul><li>Leadership is key to prevention </li></ul><ul><li>Have a clear, positively focused, policy </li></ul>
  32. 32. Questions for you! <ul><li>How well is bullying currently understood in your organisation and sector? </li></ul><ul><li>Does your organisational environment support bullying or does it promote a bully-free culture? </li></ul><ul><li>How well do you manage the problem of bullying? </li></ul><ul><li>Do you have (and communicate) an anti-bullying/pro-respect policy in your organisation? </li></ul>
  33. 33. Questions for me …