Workplace bullying is getting a lot of comment in the media. Here’s one take by consultant Gary Collis on the state of affairs – what do you think?
A staff member is spoken to by her manager in regards to her attendance record. As soon as the conversation begins, the staff member leaps to her feet and shouts at the manager that she is being bullied, then leaves the room. The manager, afraid of having a bullying complaint lodged against her, decides not to pursue the matter any further.
The above example is happening daily in many workplaces. With the media frenzy on bullying at school and work, many supervisors/managers are becoming hesitant, if not fearful, of addressing any staff performance issues for fear of a bullying complaint.
During my period of time as the South Australian Employee Ombudsman, along with other organisations such as the Working Women’s Centre SA, Safework SA and various unions, I spent a great deal of time educating staff on how to deal with being bullied at work.
What we did not do enough of is educate all staff in organisations as to ‘What is Not Bullying’. Today we are seeing the results: what may certainly be inappropriate workplace behaviour is being tagged immediately as bullying.
I now find myself working with organisations training all staff as to what is not bullying, which results in management feeling far more confident in addressing performance matters.
We should not take our eyes off the ball in relation to genuine bullying cases, and if an individual chooses to engage in bullying another staff member then appropriate policies need to be applied.
Before being appointed in 1992 as the South Australian Employee Ombudsman, Gary Collis was a senior Union official in SA. Gary now runs his own Relations company, specialising in Investigating, Conciliating, and training organisations on Workplace Bullying. Clients include Local Government, Health, Education, Transport, and Hospitality industries.