Preventing bullying at work.
Are you doing enough?
Bullying can happen in any workplace and is best dealt with by taking steps to prevent it long before it becomes a risk to health and safety, WorkSafe Victoria states in its ‘Preventing and responding to bullying at work', Edition 3, June 2009.
Ooonagh Barron, Senior Project Officer, WorkSafe Victoria and Barry Toseland, Senior Inspector, Bullying Prevention Unit, WorkSafe Victoria, spoke to guests during the recent SIA Bullying Prevention breakfast and encouraged a greater understanding of the risks associated with bullying in the workplace.
Workplace bullying, both direct and indirect, accounts for some 735 calls, per month, to WorkSafe Victoria; 80 requiring intervention. In the last 12 months, more than 14 per cent of Victorian workers reported having been bullied and more than 25 per cent reported witnessing bullying. This costs Victorian businesses more than $57million a year and WorkSafe Victoria has estimated that the full cost of workplace bullying, in lost productivity and absenteeism, is around $3billion a year nationally.
Barron suggested that the impact of workplace bullying is wide spread. Whilst it can have tangible financial effects on an organisation through a reduction in efficiency and productivity, it's often the things less obvious such as poor morale leading to an erosion of loyalty and commitment that has lasting effects on an organisation and its culture.
A WorkSafe Victoria evaluation on workplace bullying showed that in all cases, the investigation process appeared painful for all concerned. It demonstrated the particularly painful task of talking about what had happened repeatedly without often any movement towards a resolution.
Its ‘Preventing and responding to bullying at work' guide suggests five key work environment risk factors that can contribute to bullying are organisational change; negative leadership styles; lack of appropriate work systems; poor workplace relationships and workforce characteristics. Bullying, Barron and Toseland said, can arise from a number of interrelated risk factors and workplaces should use this as the basis for implementing workplace policy, procedure and training.
For further information and support including how to comply with the law, tools to assist, identify and address work environment risk factors, and information for employees on what to do if bullying happens to you contact the WorkSafe Advisory Service 1800 136 089 or visit worksafe.vic.gov.au/bullying
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