Employers are entitled to direct and control how employees carry out their work and to provide feedback on employee performance. But employers (and senior employees) should be mindful not to “let the power go to their heads” and tip the scale from constructive criticism to workplace bullying.
Workplace bullying can be difficult to define, but is generally classified as repeated unreasonable behaviour that threatens, intimidates or humiliates a person in the workplace and usually has negative effects on the bullied persons’ health and safety.
Bullying can be quite overt, such as physical assault or being demeaned and patronized in front of colleagues. However, it is common for the bullying behaviour to be subtle and only directed at the victim out of the hearing of others in the workplace.
The perpetrators of bullying usually employ the less overt techniques of trivial criticism, lack of acknowledgment, isolation, withdrawal of work and setting of unrealistic targets in order to ‘fly under the radar’ whilst fulfilling their own misguided desire to wield power or play puppetmaster.
Employees affected by bullying suffer from stress and anxiety, loss of self esteem and feelings of isolation at work. Apart from the negative health & well-being effects on the employee, a worker who is the subject of bullying will not be operating to their full working capacity which in turn affects the profitability of a business.
Employers should be mindful of the ways in which the incidence of workplace bullying can be reduced, including:
- developing a workplace bullying and harassment policy, as part of an overall OH&S policy.
- educating employees as to what constitutes unacceptable behaviour, and encouraging respectful behaviour in the workplace
- being responsive to allegations of bullying by providing avenues for employees to make complaints (without suffering ramifications for whistleblowing)
- monitoring the workplace for signs of bullying behaviour (such as employees taking excessive amounts of leave)
Employers need to be aware that in some cases, depending on the nature of the harassment, employees can commence legal action against their employer for failing to prevent bullying in the workplace.
It is therefore important that employers have the necessary policies in place to prevent bullying and create a safe & productive workplace environment.
The Employment Law team at Everingham Solomons is well equipped to assist you with all your workplace relations issues from policy updates to termination of employees, contracts of employment to redundancy correspondence, warning letters to application of the Modern Awards because Helping You is Our Business.
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