The incidence of workplace bullying has jumped almost 40% in the last 4 years according to the intriguing results of Safe Work Australia’s Australian Workplace Barometer Project 2014/2015.
The Bullying and Harassment in Australian Workplace Report November 2016, revealed that Australia’s national average workplace bullying rate was 9.6%, which is an increase from 7% in 2011.The results place Australia with potentially a greater incidence of workplace bullying than 34 European countries which collected similar data in 2010. The data reflected that the increase in the prevalence of workplace bullying was observed in most states and territories, with the exception of South Australia.
Other key findings from the research included:
The incidence and regularity of workplace bullying - Nearly one in 10 people reporting they have been bullied at work. With 12.2% saying they were bullied daily, 32.6% indicating they had been bullied at least once per week for between 1 and 6 months, 12.9% responding they had been bullied for between 7 to 12 months and 16.3% for more than 2 years.
The majority of bullying is reportedly by supervisors - Of those who had been bullied 62.3% experienced bullying from their supervisor, which was over two times higher than the rate of the next highest perpetrators, that being co-workers at 28%.
The red flag industries - Industries with the highest levels of bullying were Electricity, Gas and Water supply; Health and Community Services; Government administration and Defence; Transport and Storage; Mining; and Education.
Females are more likely targets - Women were more likely than men to be bullied and more likely to experience unwanted sexual advances, unfair treatment because of their gender, and being physically assaulted or threatened by a client or patient.Men were significantly more likely to experience being sworn at or yelled at in the workplace.
The forms of bullying - The most common forms of bullying were being sworn or yelled at; humiliated in front of others; being physically assaulted or threatened and experiencing discomfort from listening to sexual humour.
The study identified that workplace bullying may result from the interplay between individual, organisational and external aspects but it is organisational level factors which are the most central determinants of bullying. A leading indicator was the extent policies, practices and procedures for the protection of workers psychological health are in place.Specifically the results showed that high work pressure and emotional job demands were related to higher levels of bullying. Conversely in organisations where there was a higher regard for psychological health and safety, which is demonstrated through management commitment, adequate provision of job resources, supervisor social support, job control and organisational rewards, there was a lower prevalence of bullying.
So what does this mean? Your interventions to reduce bullying and harassment must focus on improving policies, practices and procedures for the protection of workers psychological health and doing so using a risk management framework.
The report identified some practical steps including:
There must be a solid commitment for senior management to prioritise and communicate good WHS policies, practices and procedures;
Establishing worker psychological health as a core business value;
Policies should include guidelines for respectful behaviour;
Management must create jobs with manageable work demands;
Awareness training for managers and supervisors on bullying and harassment should include a focus on their effects and managements obligations under WHS particularly that neglecting harmful psychosocial risk factors, such as bullying and harassment, is in direct conflict with the model WHS Act;
As supervisors are the most commonly perceived source of bullying, education and training should pay particular attention to supervisory and leadership behaviours and focus on managing performance of their employees;
Establishing systems to enable upward and downwards communication about bullying and harassment; and
Employee awareness of ethics and values.
As a workplace that is safer from a psychosocial perspective is linked to high levels of productivity, there is a strong case for organisations to focus on organisational-level primary prevention strategies. PEEL HR are specialists in this space and we have in place a number of programs and tools to support your organisation in achieving the practical steps identified above:
To increase employee awareness of behaviours in relation to bullying and harassment – try out The Respectful Workplace for Employees;
To target supervisor education – we have two training programs being the Respectful Workplace for Leaders and Managing for Performance.
We also have our leader’s tools to support the resolution of conflict, being the Interactive Guide for Leaders: Resolving conflict and promoting a respectful and collaborative workplace and the Building Respect and Collaboration Leaders Toolkit, to support Leaders engaging their teams in an interactive way to discuss the concepts of respect and collaboration at work.