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It’s normal to think that the risk of bullying lowers when we leave school, but for many Australian workers, bullying remains a reality that is often experienced in the workplace.

The impact of bullying is just as devastating on an adult as it is for a child or adolescent being bullied by their peers. Bullying victims are at risk of physical and mental harm, including depression, psychological distress and emotional exhaustion.

Workplace bullying is unreasonable and inappropriate behaviour that is repeatedly directed at an individual or a group of workers that may cause harm. It takes work from all employees within an organisation to stamp out and help prevent workplace bullying to create a positive workplace culture. For managers and human resources teams around the country, it’s important to know what can be done to help facilitate this, including managers knowing how to address workplace bullying. Find our 10 expert tips to help prevent workplace bullying below.

#1 Encourage Staff to Offer Their Support to Colleagues

Being bullied can make a person feel depressed and undervalued. To avoid your employees feeling this way, you can encourage all staff to offer support to colleagues if they notice bullying. Employees can do this by simply offering an ear to their co-workers, particularly if there is an incident that needs to be reported. Just knowing that someone else sees unacceptable behaviour can be reassuring to a victim of bullying and help them come forward to their manager or human resources team.

#2 Motivate Employees to Speak Up

Employees should feel supported to call their colleagues out when they see poor behaviour, conduct and bullying. One way to do this is to reassure employees that it’s important to speak up when they see this happening around the workplace. 

Some people may not want to call out the behaviour in front of the victim for fear of embarrassing them, so ensure employees know that it’s okay to wait for the right time to say it in private, if need be.

Furthermore, some people in the workplace may not be confrontational. So it’s important to reiterate that speaking to a manager or human resources team member about the issue can be just as effective.

#3 Facilitate a Positive Workplace Culture

Workplace culture has a huge impact on the way that employees conduct themselves, and every single employee contributes towards the culture of the organisation. If a staff member becomes aware that a colleague has gotten away with bullying in the workplace, they may be more inclined to replicate that behaviour themselves as it will likely be viewed as behaviour that is accepted. 

Workplace culture is something that can change for the worse very quickly, which may lead to a toxic environment where multiple bullies constantly escape consequences for their behaviour. If this happens, it can take months, if not years, to mend the organisation’s poor culture.

#4 Run Workplace Behaviour Training

Not everyone knows the difference between acceptable and unacceptable workplace behaviour. Some workers don’t realise that regularly belittling a colleague is bullying. As a result, it’s important for managers and human resources teams to raise awareness of bullying and set the standards within a workplace. This can be done through workplace behaviour training for any current and incoming employees, which will help them understand how they’re expected to treat their colleagues. 

By communicating these expectations, victims and bystanders will have more confidence in spotting and calling out inappropriate behaviour.

#5 Encourage Workers to Report Bullying

Organisations should have a bullying reporting and response system in place. Workers must be fully educated on the system so they know which steps to take in order to report bullying. Having an organised system in place will also give workers the confidence to know that their concerns will be listened to and acted upon if there is an issue.

#6 Lead By Example

Respectful workplace relationships start with management. If the management team treats all employees with respect, it’s more likely that the rest of the organisation will follow suit. Leading by example can have a big impact on behaviour and culture within a workplace.

#7 Respect Workers’ Mental Health

Managers and human resources teams should regularly tell workers that they take psychological health seriously. Many people think an organisation takes a hard line in ensuring the workplace is safe to protect workers’ physical health, but give little consideration to mental health. By regularly reminding workers that mental health is just as important, you’re more likely to have workers say something early when they're feeling stressed, depressed or bullied. This means problems are less likely to have a long term, detrimental effect on mental health.

#8 Don’t Cover Up Workplace Bullying

If the organisation has dealt with incidences of bullying and kept records, don’t keep it hidden away. It’s important to ensure there is transparency - managers and human resources teams should always know about any incidents and know how it was dealt with to help set precedents. 

All employees should also know about when an incident has occurred and that it will not be tolerated. By reiterating this, everyone in the organisation has peace of mind that they will be heard if they need to make a report one day. Doing this can even act as a deterrent, as people will be more mindful of their workplace conduct in case it is considered inappropriate and action is taken.

#9 Effectively Communicate with All Employees

Bullying can creep into an organisation without people realising, until it’s caused harm. Make bullying front and centre with regular communications. Put up posters around the workplace to remind everyone that bullying isn’t tolerated. Place information on the intranet about bullying, including the policy, reporting process, and even examples of unacceptable bullying. Remind workers through internal newsletters, at staff meetings, as well as during safety talks and emails. Regular communication keeps bullying, and the prevention of it, in the forefront of everyone's mind.

#10 Consider an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Bullying can have a long-lasting impact on a person’s mental health. If you are made aware of cases of workplace bullying, you can recommend that the victim contact the organisation’s employee assistance program (EAP) provider for support (if there is one) or consider making Altius Group your EAP partner.
Even if it appears that the bullying has not bothered a particular employee, you never know the impact it could be having. Speaking to a qualified psychologist can provide the support they may need, and just having the option to speak to one can be reassuring.

Everyone in a workplace, from the CEO or directors down to the most junior employee, has a part to play in managing and finding ways to prevent workplace bullying. If everyone is willing to act on any bullying they witness, it can have a positive impact on the culture of a workplace and the health of staff.

For more information or support, please see Altius Group’s Employee Assistance Program, call 1800 258 487 or contact us online.