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A Conclusion on Workplace Bullying

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.

Working Together to Solve BullyingKnowledge

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.

Deviance

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.

New Directions

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?

Conclusion

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.

About the Author

Safety Concepts is an online resource providing up to date insights and covering issues in the field of Workplace Safety.

Comments (6)

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  1. John says:

    This has been a great eye opener about workplace bullying but I did not think that it went far enough in terms of how the victim sufferred as a result and perhaps this was not the intent of the writer at this stage. I know of two situations from within very high profile organisations that were managed very differently but both at the end of the day did not resolve the issue as the person doing the bullying still maintains both in their job and profile. Both recipiants sufferred enormously with one hanging onto their job as they need it badly and the other being shown the front door with HR saying something entirely different for the termination. You wonder why people do not report or even want a lot to do with this type of situation-the major reason is its beyond their control and nothing happens because you get known as whistle blower. This sounds terribly negative i know and its easy to say stand up and put these people back in their boxes where they belong but put yourself in their shoes(the recipiannt) and all of a sudden its not so easy. I agree with the writer that there is one heck of alot more to do in this area within the workplace. Costs at work at one thng, the costs bourne by the individual are another.

  2. David hogard says:

    I just came across to your blog and reading your blog this is very much inspired me that,Recent media sources indicate that workplace bullying is escalating. Court, Commission and Tribunal decisions are resulting in an increased need for organizations and individuals to be increasingly vigilant about issues that will impact on workplace bullying allegations.

    http://justblogme.com/workworkwork/326071/5+Important+Facts+for+Safe+and+Healthy+workplace.html

  3. Moon says:

    I was in a bullying culture which was not pleasant. Started seeing others being the victim then came my turn. We had been a good team but a few changes in staff and all went toxic. It was stressful but more a pack dog type bullying, not getting invited to lunch all of a sudden and being given far too much work. Then I started to act in a stress way which validated many attitudes. However still manageable I thought. Just slow wearing down on my self esteem which had it stopped there feel I could have recovered from. Then a new manager started who was alpha bully and he walked into a culture where it was easy for him to garner support. From then on hell.

    Before I was outgoing, sociable, loved fun too much maybe, was always a valued employee and drank too much at parties. Was buying two houses with mortgage nearly paid off on primary property.

    After. Facing financial ruin, have no friends, no desire to go out, only can stand short stints of temp work when I prefer to keep to myself. Drink too much period, but never at parties.

    How can a person change so much in a few short years?

    If I can teach anyone anything it is that you feel mental breakdown can never happen to me. I thought people were born that way. I never knew exposure to this type of abuse over 4 years could change me so profoundly and possibly affect the rest of my life.

    So never feel safe if you are popular and well liked. Do not feel safe if you get the age of 40 without any mental health issues so it will never happen. .

    If you suffer any stress for too long it may scar you for life, no return, so minimise exposure to any stress. Short term financial stress is easier to deal with than long term financial ruin. I was in my 40′s when it happened and had no real bad workplace problems before. So it can strike at anytime.

    If you see someone bullied in the workplace suggest they call you at home or meet for a coffee and explain that if you are seen to support the victim it makes you insecure so would like to help but away from the office. This way at least the victim feels someone cares. It is very lonely. You can see the look of horror in the eyes of good people but they usually prefer to stay out of it as they need to protect themselves.

    Pray for justice. There is none now, None. Nadar. I know it will reduce my life like James Hardie victims. No justice. The bully in my case got a demotion but stayed employed. The managers I wrote to refused to even reply to my mails because they could not deny it happened and therefore would expose the company to lawsuit. So they protected the bully.

    Try to find a discrimination angle if need be. Race, sex or religion. Only way. The you have human rights on your side.

  4. Elisha says:

    I read this recent and final part to your article. I have found that the culture of bullying is still safe guarded by the intimidation of the associated costs in the options of action. The loss of job, the loss of respect, and the alternative responses to a person that makes ruffles. the cost therefore escalates for the individual that is being treated by attacks that cause their sense of continual victimisation. As indicated its nice to think that we are able to stand up for our rights to a non harrassing workplace but the losses mostly fall at the expense of the individual either way.

  5. Everyone who has responded has provided some extremely valid points and despite all the work that has been and is being done to change what is happening, there is still a long way to go. Decisions to report the bully (who by the way is one responsible for all the physical, psychological and financial costs incurred) are never easy. In many cases, the bully is seen to be the one getting the outcomes and is rewarded for that. The bully may have been picked by a promotion panel and the panel may not want to admit they made an error of judgement. One of reasons why I wrote a book was to leave a legacy that might just help one person who is being bullied. As a practitioner, I still find that that many of the victims I speak to talk of how the system is against them, the bully always wins, it is a lonely time (even family and friends turn against them), and yet they still go to work – simply to put food on the table or to pay other debts. Every time someone responds to my comments, I gain new ideas about issues that need to be addressed. Culture – particularly unwritten ground rules and expectations are two of the key issues that need to be addressed. No victim of workplace bullying should believe they are alone – there are people to talk to, but I strongly advocate that if you are victim (or even believe that the workplace behaviours being displayed towards you are not appropriate) record the date, time, place, who was present, who said what, what you said to the person, how you reacted (including your emotional response), witnesses (and what they said or did), and even how family or friends reacted when (and if) you told them. Put your notes in a safe place – you might need them later for a Court, Commission or Tribunal hearing or mediation. Some victims will be so traumatised by what has happened, they may not make notes for some time so it will be harded to remember all the finer details. It will be difficult, but try and make the notes as soon as possible. I have been trying to find out just how much bullying costs, but it appear there is still nothing to give a precise account of all the costs. It appears that if bullying happens in the public sector, the taxpayer has to wear the costs (caused by the bully) and the consumer pays for bullying in the private sector. By the way, some Courts, Commissions and Tribunals seem to be commenting on Codes of Conduct, particularly the need to treat people with respect. Take care.

  6. Workplace bullying has to be one of the most insidious practices that has such damaging long term effects on individuals. There is no easy solution, and no one solution that can be applied to every person who is attacked. The ‘culture’ of an organisation plays a large part in determining what is tolerated and what is accepted. Until this changes, we are all going to be battling the incoming tide. For those wanting to take action, I think that the emerging Work Health and Safety Act will put Executives in the public and private sector on notice. The changes in relation to ‘officers’ and what they have to do to meet their obligations and due diligence should have them questioning what is going on in their organisation. Changes to ‘worker’ and ‘what is a workplace’ will in my mind broader the area of culpability. I understand why individuals do not report bullying – fear of job loss, repeat victimisation and intimidation, and seeing how the bully gets rewarded. I am also extremely dissappointed that individuals who are subjected to the most extreme bullying behaviours bordering on corruption, can have past medical/medical health conditions (e.g. mild depression) thrown up in their face as a reason why they are to blame for being a victim. When decisions like this are made, it just validates the actions of the bully/bullies and drive another nail into the coffin of the victim. Is it any wonder that people won’t report bullying when they are going to be bullied by the system that should be there to help them? There are some good people out there standing up and speaking out so they should be supported in a positive way. One bullying case in a smallish organisation has cost $740,000 so far. WorkCover Victoria has launched a campaign – 1165 complaints – 2400 workers compensation claims – cost more than $60 million. This does not count the long term physical or psychological costs. As a person whose claim for bullying was just accepted two years after it was initially by the investigator ‘to have nothing in it’, the organisation has ‘lost’ a formerly highly productive and determined person – now they just turn up for the money and do the basics.

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