WHILE schools and other organisations are running anti-bullying programs, what are workplaces doing to stop the culture of bullying in their work environment?
Workplace bullying affects the health and safety of staff by severely undermining their self-confidence and self-esteem. It is often difficult to speak up, especially if it is perceived as part of the work culture.
If this culture is not dealt with, it can damage business efficiency, productivity and profitability through increased absenteeism, staff turnover and poor morale. But, most importantly, it comes at a cost to the business through an unsafe work environment, increased worker compensation claims and legal actions.
In many workplaces, the culture of bullying has been ongoing and often the offenders don’t see it for what it is. To them, it is normal behaviour, as they were treated badly and are then treating their subordinates in the same manner, without repercussion. For some, the term is “toughen up”.
The question is, where does the bullying culture stem from? Is it a leadership issue? Or a management issue?
In 2012, an online poll by the Workplace Bullying Institute asked: ‘‘Why does bullying in the workplace happen?’’ Of the respondents, 56per cent related it to the work environment, 24per cent to the people, and 20per cent said it was societal.
Generally, when bullying complaints are raised, the process is mediation, counselling and, in more severe cases, legal intervention and industrial relations. In extreme circumstance, the workers can have their contracts terminated as the workplace reinforces its policies.
But is this enough? Do those actions resolve a culture that has existed and thrives in a workplace? Is it not an indication of a deeper-rooted problem that needs to be solved through a process within the workplace, rather than the one-off actions following a complaint?
Isn’t it time for workplaces to take responsibility, as action is long overdue to change this culture? The schools have been implementing programs for a few years and these children are then joining a workforce that is still immersed in the culture of bullying. It almost seems like a fruitless exercise.
Workplace bullying is a safety issue that inflicts psychological injury, and strips dignity and respect from its victims. The offenders often continue their abuse and criminal behaviour. Where does the duty of care come in? When will workplaces change this behaviour, even if only to benefit their business?
Faith Eeson is a safety consultant