Proper procedures can reduce the likelihood of bullying claims especially in cases of performance management.
Bullying complaints frequently arise when a worker is being performance managed – the worker construes (reasonable) performance management actions taken by the manager as bullying behaviour or seeks to deliberately disrupt the performance management process by raising bullying allegations.
Safe Work Australia reports that about 10 per cent of workers have felt bullied at work and the Fair Work Commission reports that about 80 per cent of bullying complaints are made against a manager.
Bullying under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) arises when an individual repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards a worker, or a group of workers and that behaviour causes a risk to health and safety. Reasonable management action is not regarded as bullying.
While there is always a potential risk a worker may do this, a manager who is legitimately performance managing a worker and is only taking reasonable management action should be able to successfully rebut any bullying allegations.
Six ways to stop bullying
- Identify what is and is not appropriate behaviour, and what actions can be taken in a business wide policy/procedure.
- Provide training to all staff on workplace policies and procedures, and ensure refresher courses are held from time to time.
- Provide targeted training and assistance to managers to equip them to pre-empt and resolve matters sooner rather than later.
- Promote communication and genuine engagement between management and the workforce about preventing and addressing workplace bullying.
- Utilise HR data such as worker’s compensation claims, patterns of absenteeism or staff turnover to identify any potential problems, including workloads and staffing levels.
- Lead by example and promote effective management practices and communication.
Actions to be taken in relation to the incidence or any allegation of workplace bullying, must include:
- Respond to all matters in a timely manner and in accordance with any policy/ procedure.
- Don’t victimise the complainant.
- Ensure procedural fairness and natural justice to all those involved.
- Consider training and mentoring of the perpetrator.
- Consider support for the person who has been bullied.
As HR, you should continue to review the effectiveness of these measures.
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