Employers lax on workplace bullying

Workplace bullying

By Kate Southam

Employers are doing little to counter workplace bullying according to new research that shows nearly a third of workers in Australia have been a target for bullying and 42 per cent have witnessed bullying at work.

The 2011 Workplace Pulse Quarterly survey of more than 5,000 people found 23 per cent claimed to have been a target of bullying in the last two years alone. The 2008 survey found 30 per cent of respondents had been a target of workplace bullying and 44 per cent had witnessed workplace bullying.

Commissioned by employment screening provider WorkPro, the 2011 survey found 23 per cent of respondents were unsure of their workplace rights related to bullying and 75 per cent would like to receive training on worker’s rights and bullying at the beginning of a new job.

The release of the research comes a week after new legislation was introduced in Victoria making workplace bullying a crime carrying a penalty of up to 10 years in jail.

The Crimes Amendment (Bullying) Bill 2011 is also known as Brodie’s Law, named after 19-year-old Brodie Panlock who committed suicide in September 2006 after what a  magistrate described as ”persistent and vicious behaviour” from co-workers at a Melbourne café.

WorkPro manager Tania Evans says the similar results found by the 2008 and 2011 surveys shows employers were not addressing workplace bullying

She says key areas for improvement include training for employees and their workplace rights and transparent reporting procedures so people who are targeted by bullying have somewhere to turn for help.

“Establishing awareness in the workplace is clearly a factor here so that employees understand their rights from the get go and the consequences for breaching workplace codes of conduct,” she said.

The research found 68 per cent of people worry that their own behaviour could  be seen as discriminating against a colleague based on gender, disability or “distinctive attributes”. In other words those surveyed were worried jokes or remarks they made could be seen as a type of bullying or discrimination. Of those surveyed 23 per cent were unsure of what circumstances would constitute their own rights are being violated.

Ms Evans says workplace training programs need to make clear who employees report bullying incidents to. Training needs to include those employees engaged on temporary assignments as well. The survey showed 47 per cent of respondents working as temps were unsure of whether to report a bullying incident to the recruitment agency or the host employer.

Ms Evans suggests employers include information about bullying and what to do if an employee is targeted in their induction programs alongside occupational health and safety and equal employment opportunity training.

She also advises that employers keep learnings alive by continuing training programs  for all staff. Procedures for reporting incidents also need to be transparent, well documented and understood by all employees.

Article from CareerOne.com.au June 9, 2011.

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