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Dealing with office bullying in Australia

Australia is one of the worst developed countries for workplace bullying.

The latest research from the University of South Australia shows that Australia ranks sixth in a survey including 31 European countries.

About 10 per cent of Aussies say they’ve been bullied at work and it is a problem that costs businesses about A$36 billion per annum.

However the latest figures may not show the true extent of the problem, due to the antisocial office behaviours that aren’t reported in the workplace. Research shows that two-thirds of workers have probably experienced unfair treatment while working.

Laws have been implemented to deal with workplace bullying over the last few years but employment experts know there’s still a need to add more protective measures.

University of South Australia researchers created a diagnostic and response solution to address that need, providing a simple, evidence-based approach to recognising and addressing bullying issues in Australian workplaces.

Lead researcher, associate professor Michelle Tuckey, said that the key to dealing with such behaviour in the office lies in understanding why bullying shouldn’t be blamed entirely on isolated individuals.

“Workplace bullying is often mistaken as a problem between staff members, an interpersonal problem, when evidence shows it’s really a reflection of how the organisation functions. It’s a cultural issue, a systems issue – if you have a healthy culture and healthy systems, then you don’t
get a lot of bullying, but if you don’t have that culture and those systems, bullying is more common,” associate professor Tuckey explained.

Based on six years of intensive research, her team have devised a method that will allow companies to create a healthy work culture that will prevent bullying at work.

“We’re taking a safety risk management framework and treating bullying as a work health and safety hazard, following the normal risk management approach, which is to identify hazards, assess the level of risk, implement risk controls, and then monitor and evaluate. An important feature of our approach is the involvement of staff and managers in each stage,” said Tuckey.

“We analysed about 5500 pages of information to learn what’s going on in the culture and the work systems when people feel mistreated. Then we turned that into a survey-based measurement tool with 10 different domains used to deliver a score predictive of a broad range of work health and safety outcomes, including exposure to bullying,” said Tuckey.

The diagnostic tool shows an organisation where they should focus their efforts and prioritise their resources.

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