Balancing Interests of Employees and Employers

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Balancing Interests of Employees and Employers

Workplace bullying injury occurs with repeated unreasonable acts done persistently over time. Bullying injury has drastic consequences for employees and employers. The main concern for employers is that the prevention of bullying will affect the operation of their business. The legal protection prevents acts which pose a risk to health and safety, except for reasonable management action. This is to protect national economy and the profitability of businesses. This legal definition of reasonable management action protects businesses regardless of whether the action poses a risk to health and safety. This even protects businesses where bullying related injury occurs. It is the responsibility of businesses to self-regulate bullying through organisational policy under the WHS duty of care to provide a safe workplace.

Conflict management is a vital tool to stimulate competition, performance and creativity through conflict. Conflict itself is not bullying but conflict which escalates to pose a risk to health and safety is bullying. Conflict management is the process where task conflict is managed through escalation and de-escalation techniques to provide the right amount of stimulation to encourage creativity and performance. Too much stimulation creates bullying while too little can cause stagnation. This process is difficult to achieve the optimum level of conflict without proper training and experience. Conflict management is a key part of work direction, performance management and grievance handling processes essential to the efficient operation of any business.

Conflict management works with task related conflict but interpersonal conflict it can encourage bullying. Interpersonal conflict is always destructive. Without emotional training and experience it can be difficult to determine where task related conflict degrades to personal conflict. If can even be difficult to see if your behaviour is creating personal conflict or if reasonable behaviour is incorrectly interpreted as personal conflict by others. Organisations need to provide all staff with training in the soft skills of conflict management and emotional intelligence to support supervisors or employees in understanding the legitimate objectives of the process.

The negative effects of bullying to individuals include depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicide. To avoid these drastic consequences employees will leave an organisation, take sick leave, complain to supervisors and take action with regulators. The negative effect to organisations includes higher recruiting costs, compliance costs, staffing costs and legal costs. As staff become disinterested, pre-occupied and discouraged they participate less, become silent and unproductive. This leads to stifled creativity and task failure. The mere act of witnessing bullying effects bystanders who perpetuate the negative culture of bullying tolerance.

Early intervention is a better alternative than reacting to workplace bullying injury after it has caused damage to employees and employers. With greater understanding of proper conflict management techniques, emotional intelligence and the negative effects of escalation to workplace bullying, organisations can move toward a bullying free culture of reasonable action. This can be achieved through early intervention policy and supportive leadership without sacrificing operational efficiency. This particularly applies where organisational conflict has been mismanaged in the past. The application of conflict management and emotional intelligence training supported by early intervention policy can increase task success and reduce employment costs.

Kevin Gilmore-Burrell LLB MBA

© Empathyse ® Anti-bullying Consulting 2018