November 12, 2018

How workplace bullying can bring your business down

We all know bullying is bad news for business. But just what risks are there?

Bullying is bad news for business on so many levels. From potential legal action to a bad workplace culture and from lost productivity to a bad reputation, it has the potential to impact any business’s culture, people and bottom line. In this blog, we explore the most common risks and how your business can avoid them.

1. Legal risk

There are now many legal risks associated with bullying. These include:

  • WHS laws which require every business to provide a safe workplace. These provide for a maximum fine of up to $3 million for a corporation, $600,000 for a business owner or manager and $300,000 for an individual worker. In extreme cases, they also allow for a worker to be jailed for up to five years.
  • The anti-bullying provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009. These allow workers to apply for an order to stop bullying behaviour from occurring in the workplace.
  • Workers compensation laws. Bullying very often leads to the victim suffering a psychological injury. When that happens, they may be able to bring a workers compensation claim against you.
  • Negligence laws. If you’ve breached your duty of care to a worker and it’s led to an injury – including a psychological one – you may face a large damages claim.
  • Criminal laws. In the very worst instances, bullying may actually be a crime. For instance, in Victoria, Brodie’s Law (named after a teenage worker who committed suicide after being bullied at work) extends the stalking provisions of the Crimes Act to apply to bullying also.

2. Reputational risk

Legal risk really is really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bullying. Even more damaging can be the risk to your reputation both as an employer and as a business. A company with a strong reputation attracts the best people, more investment, more sales and ultimately more profit. Get a reputation for bullying and the opposite is often true. .

Would a quality worker really work in a place where there’s a risk of being bullied when there are other offers on the table? Probably not. And that means you have to reduce the quality of employee you’re willing to take on or offer more money (or both).

At the same time, people are less inclined to do business with a bully. If word spreads to customers and consumers, you may even see a drop in sales.

3. Cultural risk

When bullying is tolerated in a workplace it can infect the entire culture – especially if someone in management is being seen to get away with it. That can lead to productivity sagging with less motivated staff working fewer hours, taking more sick days and generally not putting in their very best effort.

Worse still, workers tend to adopt the behaviour of their bosses. In other words, bullies beget bullies. So pretty soon one case of bullying can lead to another, and another, and another… Eventually, bullying becomes the standard way of relating to people and getting things done.

4. Financial risk

When you take potential lawsuits, lost sales, less productive staff and lower profits into account, it all adds up. In fact, one Productivity Commission report found that bullying cost Australia’s economy somewhere between $6 billion and $36 billion a year. Can your business really afford to be part of that figure?

5. Personal risk

Finally, and most devastatingly, workplace bullying can take an enormous personal toll. Bullying victims are more likely  to suffer from mental health problems, including depression, stress and anxiety. They’re also more likely to commit suicide.

Are you concerned about bullying in your workplace?

In short, by tolerating bullying in your workplace, you’re not just letting your business suffer you’re potentially also impacting someone’s wellbeing. You owe it to your business and your employees to stamp bullying out. If you’re worried about the potential risks in your workplace, then speak with one of the Catalina Consultants team members today.

say hi to our author

Merilyn founded Catalina Consultants in 2012 on the belief that all organisations, regardless of size, should have access to top quality bespoke HR services. She enjoys working closely with her clients and believes that the best results are built on relationships of rapport, trust and authenticity. Growing up, Merilyn had her sight set on stardom and dreamed of becoming an actor. She also sang and played the piano, but ended up studying accounting and HR. Whilst she hasn’t won her Grammy just yet, she still loves a good karaoke night. Merilyn loves to travel with her family, with South Africa being one of her most memorable destinations.

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