Workplace bullies aren’t always the boss
Most of us think of the boss when we hear stories of workplace bullying. They are the ones with the power, the ones with the authority to fire you, the ones in charge of the way things are run.
Statistics tend to back this up. Studies have found 72 per cent of bullies were bosses, and that they mostly have lower ranked mini-bullies who work with the boss to carry out the bullying. A survey by the Know Bull group found half of employers take no action when a workplace bullying claim is made.
The economic and social cost of bullying in the workplace in the form of absenteeism, loss of productivity and legal costs has been put at up to $36 billion a year by The Australian Human Rights Commission. Research shows the impact of one serial bully in a workplace can reduce performance of their victims by half, and other workers by a third. Safe Work Australia found bullying in Australian workplaces is substantially higher than international rates. Occupational Health News reported that 42 per cent of men reported being sworn or yelled at in the workplace, 20 per cent of workers were humiliated in front of others, 20 per cent experienced discomfort due to sexual jokes and 7 per cent of women experienced unwanted sexual advances. More than one in ten women experienced unfair treatment due to gender.
WorkSafe research shows that although most workplaces have anti-bullying policies, the rate of bullying in the workforce has risen from 14 per cent to 15 per cent. The average cost for a stress claim is $41,186 compared to $23,441 for a physical injury claim.
Nathan Luke, employment law specialist at Stacks Law Firm, says employers need to ensure they have effective anti-bullying measures in place and accessible avenues for concerned workers to complain. Victims of bullying also need to know their legal rights and get expert legal advice on the best course to take for their particular case.
Leaving the bullying to last and fester without taking action by both the victim and the employer can end in much higher costs – both financially and emotionally. Earlier this month a Victorian teacher was paid $770,000 in damages after suffering a major breakdown following years of being bullied and threatened by his students, one even using a home-made flamethrower. For six years the teacher was assigned the worst and most unruly students without break. The court found the department and the school had breached its duty by not removing the teacher from the challenging classes.