Study reveals high rate of bullying in Australian workplaces

Workplace bullying, in all its guises and forms, can have a toxic effect on any organisation and its employees. Australian businesses will therefore be concerned with the recent finding that organisations in this country may have one of the highest rates of bullying in the world.

According to the Australian Workplace Barometer report, which the University of South Australia's Professor Maureen Dollard helped produce, the level of workplace bullying in Australia is “disturbing if not embarrassing”. When compared with more than 30 European countries, Australia was found to rank sixth in terms of this form of abuse.

Professor Dollard laid bare the damning figures for all to see.

“The research found that bullying and violence rates in Australian workplaces are very high, with 7 per cent of Australian workers reporting being bullied in the past six months,” she revealed.

“Australia was ranked 11th for violence at work, with six per cent of workers reporting they have been physically assaulted or threatened at work by their managers, supervisors or co-workers.”

As such, she advised organisations in Australia to take timely action and put the required measures in place to stem workplace abuse. This can include everything from implementing policies and procedures dedicated to bullying, to fostering better organisation-wide communication, and conflict prevention and resolution.

“[Bullying's] impact on workers and their families can be devastating, with lives potentially wrecked,” Professor Dollard warned.

“This behaviour is criminal and it should be treated as such.”

Having a good manager in place can be the first step to reducing and eventually removing bullying from the workplace environment. According to Hogan Assessments research, 75 per cent of US employees say dealing with their boss is the most stressful part of their job, indicating possible room for improvement in this area.

Therefore, in addition to adopting organisational best practices to eliminate workplace bullying, companies can ensure their managers are suitable role models. With the help of leadership development training, organisations can help foster their managers' positive competencies and attributes to enhance the well-being of the workplace.