Do you have to repeat it to stop it

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Do you have to repeat it to stop it

Workplace Bullying – Do you have to repeat it to stop it? NO!

If you follow the usual corporate bullying management policies, the definition of bullying requires someone to repeat it before you can do anything about stopping it. You don’t have to limit yourself to those restrictive policies which lead to legal costs to fight claims. All businesses can and should stop bullying before it happens. By stopping bullying before it happens you are complying with your Work, Health and Safety obligations to identify the risk and control it before it causes injury. There are advantages for your staff and organisation to preventing workplace bullying before it has the potential to cause harm to organisations and staff.

 It wasn’t until around the 1990’s that workplace bullying was recognised by Psychologists who identified the actions which cause the psychological harm of what we now call bullying. The definition was later refined to ‘repeated unreasonable behaviour posing a risk to health and safety’ in many of Australia’s Workplace safety laws. To separate workplace bullying from light hearted banter, the need to be repeated was kept. This provides courts with the certainty that the acts were not innocent, before being repeated persistently over time to incur bullying related injuries. The reason behind this is to ensure business and the economy prospers while the judicial system is not overworked.

Australian Workplace safety laws also include the defence of what would later be called ‘reasonable management action’. This is intended to exempt work direction, conflict management, performance management and other forms of corrective feedback for underperforming staff from legal liability. The legal focus of this exemption is that the action reasonably follows procedures without necessarily considering any risk to the health and safety of employees. The main problem is that the unwillingness of some supervisors to take unpleasant actions needed to follow performance management procedures, can lead to repeated unreasonable acts which can pose a risk to the health and safety of under performers. This can particularly occur where supervisors are not properly trained or not prepared to make drastic decisions where performance management is needed. By taking the soft way out, they are creating a cycle of bullying instead.

The recent Federal Anti-bullying legislation and standard Corporate Bullying Management policy was created out of the Senate enquiry called ‘Bullying – We just Want it to Stop’ in 2012. The processes created ensure organisations follow their Bullying Management procedures to allow victims to refer bullying after it is repeated for legal action. Organisations can implement their own voluntary supplementary Anti-bullying policy designed to stop the repeat of negative behaviour by staff and poor management performance practices before it amounts to repeated bullying. This policy can also ensure that reasonable management action does not pose a risk to health and safety.

The advantages of workplaces free of repeated bullying include lower recruitment costs, less sick leave, fewer workers compensation claims, reduced legal costs. If these new antibullying policies are supported by ethical leadership to create a culture of respectful communication, organisations can achieve higher task success and improved innovation. This in turn enhances the organisation’s reputation, resulting in increased brand loyalty, shareholder commitment and the attraction of good staff as a preferred employer. By removing the risk of workplace bullying, organisations are complying with their responsibility to identify Work, Health and Safety risks to make the workplace safe.

Kevin Gilmore-Burrell LLB MBA ©

Empathyse ™ Anti-bullying Consulting 2018