Preventing Workplace Bullying & Harassment

Victims of workplace bullying and harassment feel panic, suffer pain and cope with emotional torment – a situation no one should ever experience. With recent media coverage of incidents involving public figures, now is a good time to assess how you’re protecting employees and preventing this problem.

Employees want safe workplaces. However, a 2017 report shows only 27 percent of the Australian workforce are confident their company is doing enough to address bullying and harassment.

What’s more, a study by Safe Work Australia (SWA) found that increased levels of workplace bullying resulted in lower job satisfaction, higher intention to leave, increased emotional exhaustion and even depression. So, creating a positive working environment could mean the difference between great business outcomes and poor company culture.


" Protect your business and your most valuable assets  (your people) from the danger of workplace bullying and harassment."


Is it bullying or harassment?

While behaviours for both are very similar, the Australian Human Rights Commission differentiates each on their website. Both can involve physical, verbal or psychological abuse but the main difference is that bullying is recurring while one-off incidents can amount to harassment.

Knowing what you’re up against is one thing, taking action is another. Here are three ways to stop bullying and harassment in your workplace:

Protect your people

Because employees are protected from both bullying and harassment under national and state laws, it’s your duty of care as an employer to have clear policies in place.

Already have policies in place? Then it might be a good time to review and promote them. Complement these with training and education, particularly on how to respond and report incidents.

Don’t overlook the importance of a confidential reporting process. Employees need to feel that reports are taken seriously for them to come forward. Communicate reporting procedures clearly and emphasise that bullying behaviours will not be tolerated.

If you don’t have a policy in place or need additional guidance, the Australian Human Rights Commission website has useful fact sheets and templates for businesses.

Empower employees

Of course, companies need to do a lot more than just have policies in place. According to beyondblue, anti-bullying policies miss the mark in preventing incidences. Instead, more needs to be done to empower employees and create a culture where people respect and look out for each other. This could mean communication and conflict management training and increasing diversity awareness.

And top-down role modelling of behaviours counts. As SWA found, there’s a strong link between management’s commitment to the psychological health and safety of employees and decreased incidences of workplace bullying.

Act quickly

Just like a dent, the longer behaviour continues, the harder it becomes to repair. Respond as soon as you are aware of a problem. This will stop the bully from hurting others and reduce the health and safety risk for everyone involved.

Again, clearly defined policies, trained and empowered employees, and confidential reporting procedures make it easier to act fast.

An ancient proverb says, “The [wise] one sees the danger and [protects] himself.”

Take the wise course, protect your business and your most valuable assets from the danger of workplace bullying and harassment with strong policies, a culture of respect and prompt action.