Bullying is the scourge of many workplaces. There are few things which destroy office morale, tear apart team cohesion or cause good staff to leave as quickly as victimisation and harassment in the workplace. Interestingly, research has identified 22 different types of bullying conduct which might be encountered in the average workplace.
We outline these different types of bullying and provide tips on how to avoid situations that cause this type of conflict in the workplace.
What is the legal definition of bullying?
According to Fair Work Australia, a person is bullied in the workplace if they are repeatedly subjected to unreasonable behaviour by another person or group of people, or if that behaviour creates a risk to the health and safety of the bullied employee.
Bullying includes teasing, exclusion and unreasonable work demands, but does not include reasonable disciplinary action or control of workflow.
types of bullying behaviour
Research conducted by the University of Wollongong into 500 Australian employees over a 12-month period identifies the following different types of bullying behaviour:
- Withholding information (relevant to a person’s employment or role)
- Humiliation and ridicule
- Tasking a person with work that is below their level of competence
- Removing responsibility from a person who has earned it
- Spreading gossip or rumours
- Ignoring or excluding a worker
- Making personal insults
- Shouting at or otherwise berating a person
- Intimidating behaviour
- Providing hints or signals that a person should resign or abandon their job
- Reminding a worker constantly of errors or mistakes they have previously made
- Persistently criticising an employee
- Ignoring a worker hostile behaviour towards a worker
- Ignoring a worker’s opinion
- Playing practical jokes or pranks
- Imposing unreasonable deadlines
- Making unfounded allegations
- Excessively monitoring an employee’s work
- Putting pressure on an employee not to claim entitlements such as annual leave, personal leave or carer’s leave
- Teasing an employee
- Imposing unreasonable workloads
- Making threats of violence or engaging in actual abuse
These types of conduct, if repeated, generally present themselves in categories of limited indirect bullying, task-related bullying, or occasional bullying, or frequent bullying. Regardless of the cause, bullying results in increased absenteeism as a result of physical and mental health consequences on the worker who is affected.
The risks of bullying
Apart from the obvious risks of employees resigning or taking extended periods of leave due to bullying, employers should also be aware of the potential for presenteeism – where staff turn up but are too affected by the bullying to effectively perform their work.
Should employers fail to deal with bullying behaviour, they may be in non-compliance with their duty of care and their obligation to provide a safe and healthy workplace.
What can employers do?
It is essential for employers to set clear boundaries on what sort of behaviour is and is not acceptable in the workplace. The most effective way to do this is to create clear and direct policies which are well publicised to all staff, ensuring awareness.
Staff should also be trained in dealing with subtle acts of bullying, which could over time escalate into more serious types of bullying.
Employers can best combat bullying by fostering a positive workplace culture as a whole, and encouraging strong leadership and communication. This includes giving staff sufficient resources to do their jobs effectively, providing positive feedback and resisting the urge to micromanage.
WISE Workplace is against workplace bullying and provides training for employers on how to investigate allegations of bullying in the workplace. If your organisation wants to create a workplace environment that is free from discrimination, harassment and misconduct, contact us today!