Workplace bullying is a common occurrence in Australian workplaces, and has important implications for the well-being of employees, and productivity of organisations. In Australia it is estimated that 5 – 7% of employees have experienced recent workplace bullying (i.e., within a 6 month time frame); a further 40% report having experienced workplace bullying earlier in their career.
- Workplace bullying is characterised by repeated and unreasonable behaviours directed towards a worker or group of workers. It can encompass behaviours that target an individual’s work (e.g., unreasonable demands) and personal characteristics (e.g., teasing and spreading rumours).
- Workplace bullying is a major issue with nearly half of Australian employees having experienced some workplace bullying during their lives. Furthermore, it is associated with a range of adverse outcomes such as poor mental health and reduced quality of life.
- Crucially workplace bullying can also significantly impact negatively on organisations through increased absenteeism and presenteeism, higher rates of staff turnover, and high legal costs.
- Currently workplace bullying tends to be framed as an individual and interpersonal psychological issue. This research suggests the need to conceptualise workplace bullying as a cultural, organisational and structural issue.
- Many existing strategies are targeted at the individual level and are not effective in preventing and /or managing workplace bullying.
- Strategies that focus on leadership, communication, promotion of positive workplace cultures, empowerment of employees and timely action may be most effective in addressing workplace bullying.
The following strategies are recommended to prevent and reduce workplace bullying:
o Develop and implement clear and succinct workplace bullying policies;
o Incorporate workplace bullying into risk management approaches;
o Promote positive and psychologically healthy workplaces beyond merely the absence of bullying;
o Provide adequate training and support to employees so that they are empowered and protected to address workplace bullying;
o Ensure that management (particularly lower levels of management) are adequately trained and supported to address workplace bullying.
The following strategies are recommended to manage workplace bullying:
o Support workplace bullying policies with clear procedures and guidelines;
o Investigate and resolve reports of workplace bullying in a timely manner via independent investigation;