Australians: some of the world’s worst bullies at work

Employer pointing his finger in anger at employeeResearchers have found that compared with 31 European countries, Australia ranks 6th highest for workplace bullying.

The alarming research results will be explored at the International Commission on Occupational Health-Work Organisation and Psychosocial Factors Congress in Adelaide from September 17-19 at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

Congress Chair and researcher for the Australian Workplace Barometer project, UniSA’s Professor Maureen Dollard says the findings are disturbing if not embarrassing.

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

“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.”

Prof Dollard says women workers reported higher rates of bullying and for longer periods than men including more unwanted sexual advances, more humiliation, and more unfair treatment due to gender.

Men, on the other hand, reported higher rates of violence at work.

Prof Dollard says the results show that more attention needs to be given to the development of work environments that are not only physically safe, but also psychosocially safe. 

“Effective workplace policies and procedures are crucial to stem the tide but evidence suggests that there is still work to be done to embed good policy and practice,” Prof Dollard says.

“Procedures and policies need to sit within a strong climate of safety including, psychosocial safety, where there is an explicit commitment to mental health at work at all levels and areas of the organisation.”

She says workplaces are crying out for practical guidance in this area.

“There needs to be a high level of management commitment and priority given to preventing and resolving conflict, participation from all levels of the organisation, and strong communication and feedback systems in place,” she says.

“We are hoping to shed light on those issues at a National Union Workplace Bullying Seminar convened as a precursor to the congress.”

Secretary of the Australian Services Union, Joseph Scales, says a closer examination of workplace psychological health and safety is well overdue. 

“Governments, employers and the community all need to start taking the problem of workplace bullying seriously,” Scales says. 

“Its impact on workers and their families can be devastating, with lives potentially wrecked and in the worse cases, suicide a grim possibility.  This behaviour is criminal and it should be treated as such.”

Media contact: Michèle Nardelli office: +61 8 8302 0966 mobile: 0418 823 673 email michele.nardelli@unisa.edu.au

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