Workplace bullying…not welcome here

Continuing on last month’s theme that dealt with creating a healthy workplace culture to avoid burnout—this month, I’d like to extend the discussion to workplace bullying and how we can build a resilient staff culture that doesn’t give bullying the space to breathe.

We all know that bullying is a problem in our schools and online, but it’s increasingly becoming a problem in our workplaces and it’s costing employers millions.

A 2012 Safe Work Australia report found levels of bullying in Australian workplaces at significantly higher rates than those reported internationally. Furthermore, the report found sickness absence and presenteeism due to job strain and bullying, cost Australian employers $693 million—and that was three years ago.

The PaySmart experience

From small beginnings as a family company, PaySmart has rapidly expanded over the years—and as we all know, growth can sometimes be accompanied by growing pains. I found that as we grew and expanded, I wasn’t communicating directly with staff as often as I would have liked, so I’ve now scheduled regular one-on-one chats them.

During these 15-minute discussions there are no boundaries to the subject matter and I assure each employee that our discussions are strictly confidential. Quite often taking the pulse of the business this way with direct conversations can yield clarity and insight to various operational issues, including workplace bullying—which from my perspective must be addressed quickly and sensitively.

Expert advice

According to workplace communication expert Leanne Drew-McKain, Director of Coach Pty Ltd, workplace bullying can have a devastating effect on workforce productivity:

“Around 30 per cent of staff surveyed by Coach say they lose happiness, productivity and wellbeing because of bullying. In fact, of the organisations we survey, around 15 per cent of staff report they experience extremely high levels of stress because of bullying in their midst—that stress cripples staff performance.”

I asked Leanne for some practical tips managers can use when dealing with bullying in the workplace and she recommended the following:

  • Look for it: Be on watch for any pattern of communication designed to make you, or your staff, feel inferior or inadequate.
  • Talk about it: Most teams don’t talk about how they talk to each other. Have a conversation with your team to discuss and agree your communication principles—and be as specific as possible about the kind of practices you do and do consider professional.
  • Call it out: If a member of your team is consistently abandoning these practices, talk to them, privately and considerately, to share your concerns about their struggle to practice the principles you’ve agreed.

Do you have other successful strategies to manage workplace bullying? It would be great if you could share them in the comments section so we can all get on top of an issue that’s not only hurting our productivity, but also our people.

Ian Jones

CEO, PaySmart