Now is the time for better employment protection against workplace bullying

The present social system may have addressed the inequalities which were found out to be mostly driven by misunderstandings, prejudice, elitism and racism. However, it appeared that it still has to battle another form of contemporary injustice: workers’ protection against abuses at work. What makes the situation worse is such issue does not reach state or federal levels.

General opinion starts fuel up an initial reaction to bullying victims that they should be tougher. Such turns out to be a narrow-minded thinking as it seems to tolerate bullying. Bullying at work negatively affects the organizational culture which in turn, damages productivity and extend to the employees’ lives outside the office.

No reports have been filed due to reasons like fear of retaliation, potential income loss, or personal biases which rendered the victims to remain silent. This culture of impunity, along with the lack of policies and legal protections provided an unwinnable fight for employees bullied at work.

What is alarming is that bullying seems to evolve as bullies no longer solely employ symbolic or overt gestures. This generation now provides for passive acts such as isolation, demeaning behavior, abuse of authority, and blaming the victim as if the abusive behavior is due to the victim’s fault. Generally, legal remedies are available but not of convenience in case of workplace bullying as employees does not fall to a “protected class.” Such virtual impunity does not concretely prevent bullying at work.

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Why Workers Choose to Simply Endure Bullies at Work

With the introduction of the new anti-bullying regime in Australia’s Fair Work Commission, it is astonishing that only 1 out of 874 applications for suits against workplace bullying has been granted.

It is said that hundreds of complaints were anticipated upon the first month of the new regime, but surprisingly, none of the employees have filed. Lawyers are of the opinion that there are several reasons for employers to simply endure bullies at work rather than to file a law suit. One reason would be that employers often receive no compensation at all, as the regime only takes action for the bullying to stop. Adding to this lack of a form of indemnity is the narrow definition of bullying which makes it hard for a successful claim. Lastly, it is also speculated that most think that complaints are not dealt with quickly.

Bullying is defined as a repeated unreasonable conduct with a potential to cause a health and safety risk. Making this narrow definition worse is the defense of Reasonable Management. Reasonable Management exempts the act of bullying and such claim would easily dismiss the complaint. The definition also construes for the fact that if the act is not ‘repeated’, then it is not ‘bullying.’ In addition, those who have received the worker’s compensation could no longer file a bullying claim. For instance, the indemnity it provides deemed worker’s compensation the better option.

Unfortunately, legal representation against workplace bullies is not considered an option by many due to its being costly in terms of money, time, anticipation, and effort.

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Save Your Organization From Workplace Bullying Through a Grievance System

A workplace bullying policy is a system created wherein employees who experience bullying may have a channel to report violations without fear of retaliation. The end goal of the policy is to ensure that everyone is treated with respect, and that bullies are dealt with disciplinary actions and even termination if needed.

It is also important for the superiors to understand the rationale behind the workplace bullying policy so as that they could communicate the same to employees. They must understand its importance, the essentials of an efficient policy, what to expect as benefits for such policy, and how the policy protects the organization in general.

As it is pointed out that bullying downgrades one’s morale, deteriorates productivity, and jeopardizes an organization’s culture, it is a problem which needs addressing. With this, superiors must be able to model a right attitude, initiating a culture of respect in the workplace. The organization must adapt and implement an efficient policy against bullying at work. It is also important that the superiors intervene with office issues and discipline the violators. On the other hand, establishing a proper grievance system is essential as well. Lastly, an active and concrete redress measure for bullying is to conduct trainings on how to handle bullying.

As American jurisprudence shows a bunch of rulings favoring an employee over a hostile work environment, one might think that investing on a workplace bullying policy might save the welfare of the organization.

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PSA: IRD Recommendations on Workplace Bullying Slowly Worked Through

A working group was recently organized including the Public Sector Association which identified some areas requiring some focus for the Inland Revenue Department (IRD), mostly concerning on workplace bullying. On the other hand, IRD, through a report, said that they are making moves to address the workplace issues of their agency. Basil Prestidge, Assistant Secretary of the PSA, said that the recommendations have not yet been implemented, but are being slowly worked through by their organizers.

Prestidge added that little action on dealing with workplace bullying have been made despite a lot of talk. Accordingly, the change for the IRD is aimed to having more efficient tax collectors. However, the incumbent circumstances have created pressure on its employees, Prestidge noted. While not believing that IRD had a toxic working culture, he said that there were issues, particularly those involving managers in smaller IRD offices, which need addressing as there was a significant variability among managers.

Such recommendations have been acknowledged by the IRD’s annual report although nothing had been acted upon yet. However, they believe that changes will occur as they update their human resource policies and guidelines. Recent research reveals that 10% of employees experience discrimination, harassment, or bullying at work in the past 12 months. Another survey suggested that almost one-third of the 16,000 PSA member respondents experienced bullying at workplace.

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Have you always found yourself being ‘bullied’ at work? Sometimes it’s not them, it’s you

Countless articles and reports have been written about workplace bullying, bully bosses, the reasons behind it and how to deal with the situation.  The negative behavior of bad bosses often push employees to leave work and the negative environment behind.  However, there are employees who may have had the experience of having bad bosses in every organization that they joined in. In some cases, it may be because the employee had the unfortunate luck to encounter work place bullies.  In a few instances, it may because of the employee’s attitude.

According to Suzanne Lucas, an HR professional with 10 years working experience in corporate HR, there may be instances when the employee may need to take a look at themselves to find out why they keep on getting bad bosses or experiencing negative things at work.  Lucas suggests for these employees to take an introspective look at their work habits, attitudes and even skills.  One or some of these may be the reason why a few workers may have had a hard time at work or even became a target of a work place bully.

Often times, bullies tend to target individuals who don’t fight back or are easily intimidated.  If an employee who was bullied at work doesn’t learn how to stand up against the work place bully, then they may experience the same negative working environment even if they opt to leave and join a new organization.  There are certain traits that bullies are attracted to and if the bully victims don’t take steps to protect themselves, then the negative cycle is repeated once again.  While this isn’t the fault of the employees who were bullied at work, it would help if they learn some skills and techniques to help deal with workplace bullying.


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Employers should provide a safe workplace for employees and that includes addressing workplace bullying

The workplace serves as a second home to employees and should be a welcome place where people can express their creativity, do productive work and earn an honest living.  However, for some employees, it can be a place where they dread to work in but must still do so in order to support themselves or their families financially.  The reason behind may be because of a work place bully.

Workplace bullying has become prevalent in many organizations.  Employees who were bullied at work may have experienced verbal abuse, exclusion, being belittled in front of other employees or clients and other negative situations.  Regardless of the form of bullying, the employers are responsible in ensuring that they have the necessary policies and programs to help deal with workplace bullying.

Some businesses or organizations may not have their own anti-workplace bullying rules and may be relying on local or government ruling to cover such cases.   In Canada, most of the states have their own bullying legislation.  This helps to support bullied employees and protect other workers from experiencing the negative behaviors of work place bullies.  Still, it is important for business leaders and owners to have their own policies in place.

Ensuring that anti-bullying programs or policies are are enforced at work will benefit organizations in the long run, given that a positive working environment often yields highly productive employees.  Data from the Canada Safety Council shows that bully victims at the workplace lose 10 percent to 52 percent of work time from avoiding the bully, thinking of how to defend themselves from the bully, talking with co-workers to gain support and simply thinking about the workplace bullying situation.  Employers not addressing the issue may also find themselves subject of a legal action because of the work place bully.

The challenge to deal with bullies at work not only rests on the business leaders or human resources professionals.  Each employee also bears the responsibility of ensuring workplace bullying does not happen in the organization.


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Swearing at work considered as workplace bullying

Using swear words at work is generally a “no-no” although some employees may have had the experience of working with someone who would use or or two words in a conversation or during an angry fit.  Sometimes even the employees themselves use swear words at work.  However, the changes in New Zealand’s workplace bullying guidelines may land a few employees or bosses in hot water, especially if they use a swear word against another person.

According to workplace bullying expert Alan Halse, revisions to the workplace bullying guidelines made in 2014 has removed the need for employees who were bullied at work to prove intent when it came to the negative bullying behavior.  This means that employers or business in which bad languages are being used in the workplace may soon find themselves receiving workplace bullying complaints from employees who are offended by the swearing, even if it wasn’t directed at a person.

This is interesting since in most instances, a few choice swear words have become “common” in today’s language.  The use of these swear words may not even be directed to a person.  An individual may have used it to help put “emphasis” into a statement or experience.  It can also be directed to an inanimate object such as a computer or a laptop that may have unexpectedly died a “blue screen of death” during a presentation day.

Admittedly using curse words are improper, especially at the work place where the working environment is expected to exude professionalism, among other things.  Employers and business owners in New Zealand will have to watch out for non-bullies or bullies at the workplace who uses swear words, in order to avoid legal actions being filed against them.


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How is Australia’s anti-bullying program holding up?

Aside from a new year, the first day of January 2014 was the day that Australia’s anti-bullying regime was introduced at the Fair Work Commission (FWC).  The program provided employees, who became victims of workplace bullying, to report a claim against their employer’s abusive behavior.  This was the first time that Australia passed a legislation to cover bullying at work.

Prior to the implementation of the anti-workplace bullying regime, the FWC was expecting to receive around 3,500 bullying claims every year.  However, reports issued by the FWC indicated that only 874 cases of employees being bullied at work was received by the Commission since its inception until March 2015.

The number is very low.  What’s alarming is that 72 percent of these cases were finalized with an FWC decision and all but 1 bullying application was dismissed.  That means that only 1 among the 874 claims filed to the FWC was granted or deemed successful.

The low numbers of workplace bullying claims filed with the FWC is attributed to the lack of a compensation penalty.  With the current anti-bullying program, the FWC may only impose orders to deal with workplace bullying and prevent it from happening to the claimant again.  This is only applicable to bullying applications that are considered successful.  In such cases, it also allows the FWC to order the company to introduce or enhance workplace policies on bullying.

Another reason to the low numbers may be the hesitation of bullied employees to speak up about the abuse they experienced at work.

To read more about Australia’s anti-bullying program, click here.

Minnesota Set to Conduct Anti-Workplace Bullying Training for State Employees

October is the National Bullying Prevention month in the U.S. and while most of the anti-bullying activities set for this month are geared towards schools and young teens, some organizations are also taking the opportunity to launch informative sessions to fight workplace bullying.

One example is Minnesota’s series of anti-workplace bullying trainings for supervisors and employees working for the state.  This is in support of the new Respectful Workplace Policy that the state released earlier this year.  Minnesota’s new policy addressing workplace bullies was created with input from groups such as the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE).

According to Anne Moore, MAPE member and public information officer for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the associated trainings for state employees will happen this month.

What’s interesting is that the training will feature a series of videos that will show how bullies behave in the workplace and the effect of those negative behaviors.  Using informative clips, such as what Minnesota plans to do, as part of a workplace bully prevention campaign is a good tool to show everybody how damaging bullying can be.

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Workplace Bullying as Prevalent as Domestic Abuse

One of the speakers in a workplace forum held in New Zealand, which was conducted by CultureSafe, said that workplace bullying is just as prevalent as domestic violence.  Robyn Hutchison is a promoter of employees taking a stand after she experienced an unjustified dismissal in May 2011.  Hutchinson even won the employment case she filed against her former employer over the dismissal.

She went on to state that at least one in five employees experience being bullied at work.  Hutchinson added that the prevalence of work place bullies in organizations stems from the reluctance of victims to stand up against the bullying and to speak out.  Similar to how victims of domestic violence deal with their situations, some may be hesitant to let other people know of the abusive behavior they encounter at home.  The same can be said for employees who were bullied at work.  Most of the time, bullied employees chose to remain silent and tried their best to cope with the situation.

However, this has a negative effect on bully victims, not only in terms of their productivity at work, it also impacts their health, both mentally and physically.  In worst cases, it can also lead to the victim contemplating thoughts of suicide.

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