As the sun rose over Sydney this morning, I got the news – WISE is going to Milan!
I will be presenting a paper at the 9th International Conference on Workplace Bullying and Harassment in Milan, Italy, on 16 June 2014. Below is the abstract I submitted which has been accepted:
WORKPLACE BULLYING OR REASONABLE MANAGEMENT ACTION? CASE ANALYSIS OF EXTERNALLY INVESTIGATED COMPLAINTS OF WORKPLACE BULLYING IN AUSTRALIA.
Author: Stacey, Harriet. WISE Workplace. Sydney, NSW, Australia
On 1 January 2014 The Fair Work Commission in Australia adopted a new jurisdiction over workplace bullying. Unifying the definition of workplace bullying at the national level the legislation is consistent with the Commonwealth Safe Work Regulatory agency ‘Safe Work”. Under this legislation workplace bullying is defined as ‘repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety’. Specifically excluded from the definition of Workplace Bullying is behaviour, which constitutes reasonable management action. Determining when conduct is ‘reasonable management action’ or bullying is a key issue in the investigation of workplace bullying complaints and critical to minimising the risks of psychological injury in the workplace.
Employers struggle with early recognition of employees who are at risk of bullying through the inappropriate application of performance management strategies from those difficult employees who do not comply with reasonable requests or meet performance measures.
WISE Workplace is a private organisation that investigates complaints of bullying in government, not for profit and private organisations. Pulling from a sample of cases investigated by WISE Workplace over the two-year period of 2011 to 2013 this paper compares two cases of alleged bullying involving performance management and reasonable management action.
Case one involves an employee who experienced bullying over an 18-month period by her line manager. The target complained of threats to terminate her position; intimidating comments about whom she could speak to; unreasonable work expectations; delay in approving leave; failing to approve her performance plan. The target experienced long lasting/permanent psychological injury as a result of the bullying behaviour. The case was investigated and the bullying complaints substantiated.
Case two involves an employee who also alleged bullying over a 2 year period by her line manager. The target complained of a failure to approve leave; lack of procedural fairness in the investigation of complaints about her performance; phoning her whilst on sick leave; failing to be impartial in work allocation; making upsetting comments; the allegations were found to be unsubstantiated on the basis of reasonable management action.
The paper details the two cases and compares and contrasts the circumstances of each case, how the employees were handled by their organisations in response to their complaints, the way the performance management was undertaken and details lessons to be learnt about identifying genuine cases of alleged workplace bullying early to avoid psychological injury developing or progressing.