Why don’t managers take workplace bullying seriously?

By March 16, 2016Blog
Why do managers ignore workplace bullying?

There are many positive reasons for employees to move jobs. Career advancement, better location, more money. I am always struck by the number of job seekers that are leaving a company due to workplace bullying and lack of management action to fix it. So I need to ask the question, why don’t more managers take workplace bullying seriously?

The consequences of mismanaging a complaint can have a direct effect on both the individual and your bottom line. So what does it cost to ignore the issue and hope it goes away?

Turnover

The reality is that your good employees won’t stick around if they are being bullied at work. They will start looking elsewhere and leave unless they feel like their grievance is being fairly heard and dealt with by management.

It is estimated that it costs a company approx 6 months of an employee wages to replace them once you factor in the recruitment costs (including your time), lost productivity, training and numerous other intangible costs such as the intellectual property that the employee is taking with them.

Culture

A workplace bullying complaint left unmanaged has a damaging effect on the culture of your business. Remember that other employees are watching what is (or isn’t) happening. You don’t want employee’s concerned about what would happen if that bully turns on them or if they raise a complaint.

Even worse, your inaction is telling both the bully and their work mates that the bully’s behavior is acceptable and you could find the problem spreading. A toxic culture can see more valuable employees deciding that they would rather work somewhere else.

Reputation

Whether it is your company brand splashed across the media for all the wrong reasons or simply local gossip, a serious issue with a workplace bullying claim can damage your company reputation.

When potential employees are researching your company during the job search process, what will your current or former employees say about you? If you operate in a small industry or remote location, you will be especially vulnerable to this. People talk and are happy to share stories as to why someone should avoid working for your business. This can make it difficult to attract the right people as well as affect your sales.

Legal

As an employer, you have the legal responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace and this extends to an employee’s mental health. The legal consequences for not effectively managing a grievance regarding workplace bullying can be severe.  They can include significant financial penalties and orders to make changes to your workplace.

The most common reason that employers are prosecuted and hit with high penalties for workplace bullying is that management knew there was an issue and did nothing about it.  Or they started to manage the issue, found it too hard and failed to follow through with the investigation outcomes.

It is essential to have a clear, documented policy for workplace bullying as well as a grievance process.  Managers need to follow this process to ensure that they are doing all they can to resolve the issue.  The key is to be proactive in the prevention of workplace bullying through the induction and training of staff and management so you can show that you took reasonable actions to prevent it in the first place.

Financial

All of the reasons listed above can have huge financial impact on your business, both in the short and long term.

If an employee that is being bullied goes off on stress leave, it affect your workers compensation costs and can drag on for years if you have not managed the situation and are found to have contributed to their injury.

The costs of an employee (or a group of employees) leaving your business can have a significant impact to your ability to run your business effectively as well as the costs of replacing those people. If the employee leaves because they feel they had no choice, an unfair dismissal case can add a payout on top of this.

If the issue escalates to a formal complaint to Fair Work or Worksafe, the costs of defending this can be significant, both with your time and the legal fees. That is before any financial penalties or fines are handed down.

 

I understand that it can be time consuming, frustrating and uncomfortable to manage a complaint of workplace bullying. Managers don’t necessarily have the expertise to handle it so it can be easier to ignore it and hope it will go away or simply tell the employee to ‘harden up’.

But when you consider the costs of not managing the complaint, some short term pain can save you serious long term consequences. If you are not sure  you have the right policies and processes in place to proactively manage workplace bullying, or need advice on how to manage a complaint, give Strawberry Seed Consulting a call on (03) 4216 5200 to get the support you need before it impacts your business.

Carli Saw

Author Carli Saw

Carli is a Human Resources professional with a passion for supporting small business and helping others land the job they have always dreamed of.

More posts by Carli Saw

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