How to develop and implement strategies to protect workers from bullying.
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How this helps your business
Going to work for most people is a positive experience that helps them to connect with people, feel a sense of community belonging and build self-esteem. Bullying undermines this positive experience.
Bullying in a workplace can cause employees to take more days off, get less done when they are there, and often leave the workplace altogether. It can be expensive for the employer and create low morale in the whole team.
Unfortunately, bullying can happen in any workplace. It can also happen outside of work hours, at work-related events and on social media. Putting bullying prevention policies and procedures into practice is the first step to preventing or addressing bullying in your workplace.
Key stats and facts
1 in 10
Australian employees said they have been bullied in the workplace in the last 6 months.
Safe Work Australia, 2015
Victorians were paid WorkCover payments for bullying and harassment claims in 2016.
40% of School deputies / Assistants reported a higher prevalence of bullying.
Principal Health & Wellbeing report, 2018
Learn more on this topic
Workplace bullying can happen in any workplace. Under certain conditions, anyone can be capable of bullying behaviour. It can have an impact on an individual's health and affect their ability to do their job. It can also contribute to loss of productivity, staff turnover, absenteeism, low morale and financial costs. Examples of bullying in your industry can include repeated:
verbal abuse, for example, being sworn at, threatened, insulted, continual inappropriate and/or invalid criticism, name calling, practical jokes, inappropriate language, yelling
hostile behaviour toward an employee or group of employees, for example, excluding them from conversations or various activities
undermining a person's work performance, recognition or position, especially with their managers or co-workers
unfair allocation of tasks and/or working hours, for example, repeatedly requiring a particular person to stay back after hours or rostering them onto night duty
These WorkSafe Victoria videos explain bullying for both employers and employees, with advice on what to do. In the Inappropriate Corporation video, Dave O'Neill, comedian, shows how employers and managers should not behave and how incivility can play out, incivility in the workplace could include rude or unsociable speech or behaviour or offensive comments seen in the video.
Workplace bullying – Employee rights
Consult your staff
A healthy and safe workplace is more easily achieved when employers and employees talk to each other about what problems might come up and work together to fix them. Starting conversations about bullying at work is the second step in calling out poor behaviour and setting boundaries about how people work together respectfully. Having these discussions in a non-judgemental way helps you build trust within your team.
There are many ways you can talk with your employees about a bullying prevention policy in your workplace, including:
during induction of new staff
having OHS and respect in the workplace as an agenda item at your regular meetings, these may be 'toolbox talks', production meetings, staff meetings or any way people in your workplace communicate
scheduling one-on-one discussions with your managers and employees
casually walking around your workplace with your staff and having conversations
displaying posters in the workplace
communicating through email messages or intranet announcements
handing out company newsletters or pamphlets
consulting with health and safety representatives (HSR)
discussing at health and safety committee meetings
You can print out this guide to share with your staff and display in your workplace. It gives your employees information about bullying as well as describing things that are not workplace bullying. It also has contact details of places where you can get help, for both you as an employer, and for your employees.
Draft or review your policy
A workplace bullying prevention policy outlines how everyone is expected to behave and be treated at your workplace. It can be written in a positive way, such as outlining how everyone should be treated at work, or it can outline what people shouldn't do. Workplace procedures should provide detail on how bullying issues will be dealt with in your workplace and ensure a consistent approach to prevent and respond to workplace bullying. Your employees must be consulted during the development of your policy and procedures.
The bullying prevention policy can be a stand-alone document, or part of your general occupational health and safety policy. Everyone needs to know where to find your workplace bullying prevention policy and procedures. Use this template below to help develop or review your own.
Use this checklist to make sure your policy covers the basics. Always consult with your employees and ask for their feedback on your draft policy.
What should be in your bullying prevention policy?
a commitment to providing employees with a healthy and safe working environment
the standard of behaviour expected of all employees, including examples of what is and what is not workplace bullying
a statement of how the policy applies in connection with work and work-related events and activities
a statement that the policy covers all communication, including text messages, email and social media
definitions or characterisations of workplace bullying
what will happen if the policy is not followed
how and where employees can report allegations of workplace bullying and how reports will be investigated
where to get more information
Consider social media
Cover social media, either in a separate policy or within your bullying prevention policy.
Social media has many benefits for workplaces, but it can also be used for bullying. A social media policy will not only protect your employees, but it will also protect your workplace. Workplaces are encouraged to put a social media policy in place or to include social media in their bullying policy, to make sure employees who use social media, either personally or as part of their job, know how to without causing problems.
Social media was covered in the sample in step 4, but if your workplace wanted a standalone policy use the following sample social media template as a guide.
Review and keep improving
It is important to monitor, review and evaluate your policies and procedures regularly. That way, your workplace can help ensure best practice in preventing incivility and bullying. Employers can monitor bullying prevention measures through regular scheduled discussion at management meetings, board meetings, staff meetings, and health and safety committee meetings. The aim of monitoring is to check prevention measures continue to work and to put new measures in place, if needed.
It is not enough for an employer to establish a safe system of work. You must also maintain the system and review the workplace policy and procedures regularly, for example every 12 months.
Employers have an obligation to involve employees and HSRs in decisions about measures to control health and safety risks in the workplace. Although a review can occur at any time, a planned and scheduled approach can help employers educate and engage their employees. You should share review outcomes, suggested improvements and recommendations with health and safety committees, HSRs, employees, senior leadership and the board of management.
Bullying prevention measures checklist
A checklist can help employers monitor and review bullying prevention measures. Your checklist could be similar to the following example:
Monitoring and review checklist
Clear standards of behaviour are set, communicated and enforced.
All employees, including supervisors and managers, know the standards of behaviour and follow them.
When new employees are inducted, they are made aware of the policy and procedures to prevent bullying.
Training is provided to prevent bullying.
Procedures for dealing with workplace bullying are in place.
Procedures allow for early intervention and formal investigation.
Supervisors know what to do if workplace bullying is reported and know how to act on bullying behaviour.
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