This is the final section of Bernie Althofer’s article on ‘Workplace Bullying being a National Disgrace’. If you believe your workplace could benefit from assessing, identifying and managing workplace bullying please visit Bernie’s website at EGL I Assessments. To read the previous section of Bernie’s article, please visit: Consequences of Workplace Bullying.
Currently there is a collective body of knowledge developing in Australia and much of this knowledge comes from victims, alleged bullies, organisations, medical and legal professionals, family/friends and associates, investigators and the media. There is no unified approach.
Whilst there may be some individuals and/or professional differences of opinion about the best possible solution, a national approach that allows collaboration to build on mutual respect and dignity may ultimately result in strategies or guiding principles that will benefit all and sundry irrespective of individual values and beliefs, cultural background or other critically relevant issues.
Some literature has in the past suggested that guidelines such as those for risk management, quality management and the like be developed. This approach could have merit if they were developed as industry standards. They could be guidelines but not compulsory, and tied to the proposed OHS harmonisation processes.
They would be generic and allow the public and private sector to apply them, and this could result in some cost savings. Licensing arrangements could allow individual organisations to use the guidelines without having to write numerous pages of policies or procedures. In some cases, the guidelines might be the extension of a Code of Practice currently owned by a State Government agency.
Emerging trends and issues
Recent media sources indicate that workplace bullying is escalating. Court, Commission and Tribunal decisions are resulting in an increased need for organisations and individuals to be increasingly vigilant about issues that will impact on workplace bullying allegations.
There are also indications that workplace bullying reduces the corruption resistance of agencies, and at the very least, creates a pathway to corruption or unlawful activities.
It would be in the best interests of public and private sector agencies (irrespective of size) to develop a system or process that allows them to stay in touch with trends and issues. It could up being embarrassing for an executive officer if they are confronted in a Court, Commission or Tribunal trying to respond to something they know nothing about.
There seems to be little doubt that there is a strong link between deviance and bullying. For some, ideas about deviance or deviants create a belief it only means rapists, murderers, paedophiles, child molesters or domestic violence perpetrators.
What if bullying does not meet social norms and values (as if it ever did)? Would we as individuals or as organisations believe that workplace bullying is something to be tolerate, excused or accepted as part of the ‘norm’?
If we as a society believe that workplace bullies are deviants who fail to meet community standards about treating others with respect and dignity, surely it is time to recognise the financial and societal costs and treat it as disease. Perhaps it is time that bullying, as well as being recognised as a health and safety issue, be treated as a public health issue.
There has to be community debate about the acceptability of workplace bullying if organisations and individuals are expected to survive. In much the same way that informed debate lead to changes in domestic violence and in leadership, similar processes have to be started to generate understanding about the negative impact on workplace bullying on business and society.
Just because it has existed in many forms across a range of societies and communities since time immemorial, it doesn’t mean that no attempts should be made at a national level.
It is time to treat workplace bullying as a national disgrace and take positive action to create a bully free society and workplace.
All it will take is a few good people to stand up and be counted. Will you be one of them?
Everyone in society feels the impact of workplace bullying. As taxpayers, customers or clients we experience higher costs, reduced service and increased levels of frustrations because of the bullying that occurs in some organisations.
When I wrote my book about Resolving Workplace Bullying, I found that there were some common issues involving the victims, the alleged bully, the organisation, the medical and legal professionals, the family/friends and associates, the investigators and the media. Everyone had a vested interest and everyone wanted to ask questions.
However, not everyone knew what question to ask or why it should be asked. My practical experience in speaking with victims, alleged bullies and organisations led me to believe that whilst bullying seemed to be part of life, many people were uncomfortable with it happening.
It was a concern that whilst organisations were able to produce policies and procedures about the prevention, detection and resolution of workplace bullying, not much was being done to educate people on the basics of organisational life.
You do need to plan for the day they will be involved in a workplace bullying incident. When it does happen, how are you going to respond? Whether you believe it or not, we are all in this together. One of the great things about treating people with respect and dignity is this. We might not agree on each other’s viewpoint, but we can have some constructive discussions that might be emotive and challenging and we can still agree to disagree without humiliating, intimidating or threatening each other. It is about communication.
I have set out a few ideas that I believe if addressed not only at a National level but on an organisational and individual level, can make a major inroad into reducing the incidence of workplace bullying.
We can individually and as organisations keep treading water or going around in circles doing the same old thing, and nothing will change.
Alternatively, we can get involved, set the ball rolling and make positive changes.
Thank you so much to Bernie for all of his advice on Bullying in the Workplace.