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How to deal with workplace bullies in allied health (and why you definitely should)
Thursday, July 22, 2021
As recruiters, we are made aware of workplace bullying from time to time. What is amazing is when an employer does nothing in response. They display a lack of sustainable and optimal action, lack of knowledge and lack of best-practice, evidence-based workplace policies and procedures. Not to mention a lack of empathy!
But what many fail to understand is that addressing bullying isn’t just the ‘right’ thing to do, it’s good for business. There’s actually a lot of evidence out there on the impact that workplace bullying has on productivity, sick leave, retention, productivity and health and safety.
Read on to find out more about workplace bullying in an allied health environment, how to address it and why you most definitely should.
What is workplace bullying?
Workplace bullying is when one or more people repeatedly behave in an unreasonable way towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.
Not all behaviour that makes a person feel upset or undervalued at work is classified as ‘workplace bullying’. In Australia, there is national legislation against bullying, and workplace bullying is defined in the Fair Work Act 2009.
Some behaviours that may be classified as workplace bullying, according to the Fair Work Commission include:
- aggressive or intimidating conduct
- belittling or humiliating comments
- spreading malicious rumours
- teasing, practical jokes or 'initiation ceremonies'
- exclusion from work-related events
- unreasonable work expectations, including too much or too little work, or work below or beyond a worker's skill level
- displaying offensive material
- pressure to behave in an inappropriate manner.
Ways that bullies are protected
Bullying behaviour is often excused, or worse, bullies are sometimes protected by power structures that ignore or condone bad behaviour.
Allied Health can be a high-pressure industry, but does that justify bullying behaviour? Are some employees ‘allowed’ to behave inappropriately?
From our point of view, it’s never justified. It’s simply not acceptable to make excuses for people, minimise behaviour or ignore it.
Here are some excuses we’ve heard:
- They were being passionate about their point of view
- They were misunderstood
- I didn’t know about it/no one told me
- What can I do?
- HR/upper management needs to deal with this
- This is a company-wide issue
- My hands are tied
- I didn’t see/hear it
- The accuser is just being sensitive
- The accuser just making trouble over nothing
- I don’t think they meant that
- They meant that as a compliment – you just took it the wrong way
Any of those sound familiar?
What to do if you think you’re the victim of workplace bullying
While a single incident of unreasonable behaviour isn’t considered workplace bullying, you should still talk to your human resources manager or someone you trust if you feel uncomfortable at any time.
If you manage someone who you think may be a bully, you may be able to speak with internal Human Resources professionals, your company’s employment lawyers or a HR consultant who can conduct bullying training.
The following websites contain helpful information:
- National: The Fair Work Commission
- NSW: WorkCover
- SA: SafeWork
- VIC: WorkSafe
- QLD: Worksafe
- WA: Worksafe
- ACT: Worksafe
- TAS: Worksafe
- NT: Worksafe
The cost of doing nothing when it comes to workplace bullying
There are real costs when it comes to workplace bullying, not only to the person being bullied in terms of health and safety, but also to a business’s bottom line.
We see people leave workplaces with great pay and benefits because they won’t work with bullies. Workplaces that do not address bullies often have a high turnover of staff, which costs a lot in time and resources. Not to mention that when workplaces get a reputation for keeping bullies, they are less attractive as employers, making it harder to fill the gaps left when people resign.
The staff who do stay, often work in an environment of fear, worried that speaking up will damage their reputation or lead to repercussions. This is not a healthy or productive work environment.
For the sake of your employees and business, it’s worthwhile taking a moment to ensure you have practices and policies in place to encourage reporting of inappropriate behaviour and management of all parties.
How to safeguard your business against bullies
- Check out the resources above to make sure your company has best-practice, evidence-based workplace policies and procedures in place.
- Address bullying as soon as the issue is brought up
- Encourage conversations around workplace behaviour
- Set the tone early – share your stance on workplace bullying in interviews, and again when new staff are hired
- Conduct exit interviews when employees leave and ask specifically whether they felt bullied at any time
Workplace bullying in allied health is definitely a very real and damaging reality, but when addressed quickly, openly and often, it can definitely be minimised and even avoided.
Have you been burned by workplace bullying? Looking for a new role? Get in touch – we make an effort to get to know all our employers and job-seekers so we can make sure they’re a great match for each other in skill, opportunity and personality.
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