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Why don’t managers take workplace bullying seriously?

By March 16, 2016July 22nd, 2019Blog
Why do managers ignore workplace bullying?

Why don’t managers take workplace bullying seriously?

There are many positive reasons for employees to move jobs. Career advancement, better location, more money. I am struck by the number of job seekers that are leaving a company due to workplace bullying and management inaction. 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?


The reality is that your employees won’t stick around if they are 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 six months of 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.


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. Employees may be concerned about what would happen if that bully turns on them or they raise a complaint.

Even worse, your inaction is telling both the bully and their workmates that the bully’s behaviour is acceptable. A toxic culture can see more valuable employees deciding they should work somewhere else.


When a company brand is splashed across the media for the wrong reasons, an issue with a workplace bullying claim can damage your company reputation.

When potential employees are researching your company, 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.


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 of not adequately 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 for high penalties for workplace bullying is that management knew there was an issue and did nothing about it.  Or they started to manage the problem, 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. Be proactive in the prevention of workplace bullying. A robust induction process and training for staff and management can demonstrate you have taken reasonable actions to prevent it.


All of these issues can result in substantial short and long-term economic impacts on your business.

If an employee goes on stress leave, it affects your worker’s compensation costs. Cases may drag on for years if the situation is not managed effectively and you have contributed to their injury.

The impact of an employee (or several employees) leaving your business can have a significant influence on your ability to run your business efficiently. This includes the price of replacing those people. If the employee goes because they feel they had no choice, an unfair dismissal case can result in further expense.

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. This is before financial penalties or fines.

Take Action

I understand 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. It may be easier to ignore it, hope it will disappear or tell the employee to ‘harden up’.

But when you consider the costs of not managing a 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 handle 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 more than 20 years of experience across a range of industries and a passion for supporting small business.

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