In acknowledgement of R U OK? Day, researchers have revealed an evidence-based solution that they believe can curb Australia's problem with workplace bullying.
It might come as a surprise to few that Australia has a workplace bullying problem. In a recent study comparing bullying levels in developed nations to 31 European countries, Australia ranked sixth highest.
Around 10 percent of Australian employees admit to being bulled on the job, but that figure doesn't reflect its true impact. With much antisocial behaviour going unreported, the actual percentage of workers experiencing unfair treatment is predicted to be closer to 66 percent.
While laws supporting victims of workplace bullying have strengthened in recent years, employment experts understand that other protective measures must be taken to protect the mental health of Australians.
That's why researchers at the University of South Australia have developed what they describe as "a novel diagnostic and response solution" to address that need by providing an evidence-based approach to recognising and dealing with workplace bullying.
Associate Professor Michelle Tuckey is the lead researcher on the project. She says the key to ending workplace bullying lies in recognising that such behaviour can be rarely blamed on individuals acting alone.
"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.”
Tuckey's team have devised their new method around six years of research into organisational culture.
"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," Tuckey says.
"An important feature of our approach is the involvement of staff and managers in each stage.”
The risk management solution has been developed through extensive engagement with 342 documented bullying complaints lodged with SafeWork SA. It is currently being trialled with peak health and safety bodies to enhance the regulatory response to bullying and to support proactive risk management in a range of other organisations.
With the total cost of bullying at work in Australia estimated to be up to $36 billion per annum, the benefits of ending workplace bullying are institutional as well as individual.
"The diagnostic tool shows an organisation where they should focus their efforts and prioritise their resources. Many organisations already have policies, training and complaint systems in place; our tool complements those structures to prevent bullying behaviour."
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