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Workplace bullying is ‘unAustralian’- Lessons from a CEO to prevent it

Picture of Melissa Sheil
Melissa Sheil
// // Popular perceptions of Aussie culture may include a laid-back, laughing group of mates... is this the case in the workplace?

// Popular perceptions of Aussie culture may include a laid-back, laughing group of mates… is this the case in the workplace?

If we’re all open and egalitarian Aussies, then surely our workplaces are more of the same, albeit with a more professional and polite tone?

Not so, the research shows, because the land of the ‘fair-go’ ranks as the sixth worst nation for workplace bullying.

As October – the ‘National Bullying Prevention Month’ – drew to a close, workplace leaders should reflect on their office environment and ask themselves: Are we doing enough?

Startups can be stressful places at the best of times, so is your leadership fostering a progressive, healthy environment or are you allowing a culture of bullying and unaccountability?

Data speaks for itself

Simon Rountree, Founder of Change Ready and recognised expert in change leadership seems to think the data does, in fact, speak for itself.

 “Despite our notion that Australians love to give people a fair go, it seems the data is suggesting otherwise.

“All CEOs or leaders need to understand and fully appreciate their duty-of-care to protect their employees from workplace discrimination, harassment and bullying and ensure that they’re aware of their rights.”

Simon Rountree

The last data shows that 32.6% of workers have been bullied at least once a week, with 62% of bullying cases directly involving a manager or supervisor.

Furthermore, workplace bullying costs Australian employers approximately $693 million per annum in lost labour and claims.

Workers with low engagement due to harassment or bullying have approximately 12% more sick days per month and an average performance loss of 8%, costing employers $4,796 per year.

Having managed a national, multi-sited workforce of thousands of employees and having first-hand CEO experience, Simon is aware that a culture of workplace bullying hinders a company’s success.

“For any business to perform at its best, they need to create a culture that rejects the notion and behaviours of humiliation, intimidation and threats. 

“No matter how large or small the organisation is, every CEO can put a greater emphasis on this, and introduce measures beyond their bullying policy and procedures. A policy is no longer enough.”

5 effective lessons in prevention.

“By adding the [following] actions to your leadership activities you’re not only establishing that you take workplace bullying seriously but you’re also setting the benchmark for other businesses to follow.”

Simon Rountree
  1. Take all matters seriously.

All bullying incidents must be reported to the CEO, no matter how big or small. They should be made aware of the case and how each case is assessed on its merits and facts.

2. Regularly consult with workers, and health and safety representatives.

Find out if bullying is occurring or if there are factors likely to increase the risk of workplace bullying. Take a day to observe behaviours on the ground yourself and identify the issues.

3. Setting the standard of workplace behaviour.

Achieve this by linking the workplace code of conduct to a Reward and Recognition scheme that acknowledges positive behaviours.

At Camp Quality, a scheme involved employees nominating a colleague whose actions and behaviours were creating positive and trustworthy environments, which was then sent to their manager who rewarded the individual with something small, such as two movie tickets, whilst posting the person’s name and actions up on the company Intranet.

It wasn’t so much about the tangible reward, but more about being acknowledged to the rest of the organisation.

It’s also important to take a step back and assess your leadership style. Are employees mirroring any of your actions? For example, using fear-based tactics to get the most of someone or excessive monitoring.

4. Allocating sufficient resources, information and training.

This investment is needed for employees to manage risk and carry out their work safely.

5. Being open and transparent.

You must keep records and measure the business against certain KPIs. If you’re falling short, assess and implement new policies immediately.

Good leaders should ensure everyone in their team is feeling safe and happy at work and be open to conversation if their team is not feeling looked after.

“Committing to a psychologically healthy workplace simply makes good sense from a cultural, financial and productivity perspective.”

Simon Rountree


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Picture of Melissa Sheil

Melissa Sheil

Melissa is a journalist, currently based in Europe. She has experience writing about the Australian music scene, parenting and real estate.
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