(Note: Further facts and statistics about bullying in the workplace can be obtained from prior research (2010) by Know Bull! in the 17-
The 2010 research conducted by Know Bull! not only supported current workplace bullying findings, but revealed alarming information about staff suicide resulting from the effects of workplace bullying; and the (then) imperative for workplace bullying having its own ‘criminal category’ via the introduction of a ‘new’ statutory course of action encompassing the notion of 'the deliberate and/or intentional infliction of a hostile work environment'...under which organisations, and workplace bullies could be prosecuted.
Bullying in the workplace -
Bullying in the workplace not only affects staff — it can also affect organisations in their ability to operate. Yet despite this, research indicates that far from being curbed — bullying in the workplace is on the increase. Even as far back as 2001, Drake Personnel, one of Australia's leading employment agencies said in an interview that, "the antics of one serial bully in the workplace had the potential to reduce the performance of their victims by half, and that of other employees by up to 33%." [17 Apr 2001].
In fact, in 2005 WorkCover (ACT) estimated the dollar 'cost' of workplace bullying saying, "The financial cost of workplace bullying to business in Australia is estimated to be between $6 billion and $13 billion a year." This includes indirect costs, such as absenteeism, labour turnover, loss of productivity and legal costs. Accordingly, "the average cost for a stress claim is $41,186 compared to $23,441 for a physical injury claim." [28 Sep 2005].
The Australian Human Rights Commission believes that the 'cost' could be even higher, with their online 'Workplace Bullying' fact sheet estimating that "workplace bullying costs Australian employers between $6 -
Groundbreaking research in the US by the Workplace Bullying Institute revealed some disturbing facts about the prevalence of workplace bullying and its effects. One of the major findings of the 2007 U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey — the largest scientific survey of bullying in the US — was that "Bullying is 4 (four) times more prevalent than illegal, discriminatory harassment," which includes such things as discrimination due to race, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, or age. Other findings included that the 'stereotype' of the 'bully boss' was very real, with 72% of bullies being bosses, and 55% of those bullied being rank-
Coincidentally, the existence of the 'bully boss' is also supported by other organisations and campaigns such as the UK's 'Ban Bullying at Work' campaign, which stated that "Bullies tend to be in a position of power" [29 Oct 2007]; and by the latest research conducted by Know Bull! which found that "an ‘active’ bully exists in 66.6% of workplaces -
Perhaps one of the most salient findings of the U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey is that "Bullies bully with near impunity, experiencing negative consequences in only 23% of cases." [Sept 2007, U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey]. The Know Bull! Survey Report: Extent and Effects of Workplace Bullying also found found that workplace bullies receive tacit approval to continue their behaviour, with 50% of employers taking no action when a workplace bullying claim is made, and a further 12.5% actually promoting the workplace bully. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that these employers (a total of 62.5%) are simply 'adding' to the 'problem' of workplace bullying.
A brief profile of a potential bully 'target' -
In contrast to the 'bully boss', the stereotype of the 'nerdy' bully target' is far removed. While the 'targets' of workplace bullies do share a number of common characteristics, these traits generally paint 'targets' as being: ethical, just, fair, well-
"Indeed," stated Dr Mark Hayes in an article in Webdiary (04 Feb 2007), "the literature suggests that workplace bullies tend to be threatened by their targets in various ways and to deal with the threat, bullies seek to control, contain, or even remove the threat, all the while getting off on the torment they are causing. The threat can actually be the target's productivity, skills, talent, popularity with peers and even superiors, which, completely inadvertently, shows up the bully's inadequacies. Like whistleblowers, the bully's target may well have a strong conscience which all but drives them to speak and act truthfully because they cannot act in any other way. The target must be put in their place."
Unfortunately, the workplace bully literature suggests "that the worse an offender a workplace bully is, the harder they can be to cure", and that perhaps it may even be "impossible [to] help them learn how to mitigate or control, their behaviour. They can even have their behaviour reinforced if their employing institution rewards them with promotion or salary bonuses, or simply ignores the damage they are doing." [04 Feb 2007].
There are various definitions of what constitutes 'workplace bullying', although the general consensus is that the behaviour encompass:
• planned mistreatment in the form of verbal abuse; conduct that is threatening, intimidating, or humiliating; or sabotage that interferes with work (or any combination of these)
• the bullying behaviour is 'repeated' and 'persistent' and not usually a 'one-
• the effects of the bullying are 'health harming' -
Other definitions include:
• "...a repeated and persistent destructive process of attempts by one (or several) person to torment, wear down, frustrate, get a reaction from another or exclude him or her from the work environment. It is treatment that provokes, pressures, frightens, intimidates and through its repetition leads to devastating effects. [Brodsky, C.M. (1976). The harassed worker. Toronto: Lexington Books]. [5 May 2007]
• "...the accumulation, over a long period of time of hostile proposals (and behaviours) expressed by one or several people towards a third person at work (the target) [Leyman, H. (1984). 'The silencing of a skilled technician'. Working Environment, 4, 236–238, in Hazards to health: The problem of workplace bullying]. [5 May 2007], and
• "any negative behaviour that demonstrates a lack of regard for other workers, including harassment, incivility, teasing, gossiping, purposely withholding business information, overruling decisions without a rationale, sabotaging team efforts, demeaning others and verbal intimidation." [Original Source: 20 Nov 2007, PRNewswire, Milwaukee].
• The Australian definition for 'workplace bullying' came to pass with the 2014 anti-
Definition of bullying
See Fair Work Act s.789FD(1)
Workplace bullying occurs when:
• an individual or group of individuals repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards a worker or a group of workers at work,
• the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.
• Workplace bullying states that bullying behaviour can fall under any combination of 5 'categories' of bullying behaviour, which include "threats to professional status, threats to personal standing, isolation, overwork and destabilisation." [Rayner, C., Hoel, H. & Cooper, C.L. (2002). Workplace bullying. London: Taylor & Francis]. [5 May 2007].
Workplace Bullying said to be a key factor in up to 100 million working days lost in UK...
According to a comment in 2008 by the Chartered Management Institute (UK) "The latest Government estimates put the cost to the UK economy of workplace bullying at...100 million days lost in productivity", while a comment by a staff member at the Andrea Adams Trust (UK) said "90% of those absent from work due to bullying tell employers their absence was the result of some other kind of illness." [06 Aug 2008, UK].
Statistics published in December 2007 by the UK 'Ban Bullying At Work Day' show that one in four people have been bullied at some point in their working lives, and new research indicates this figure may be as high as one in two. [03 Dec 2007, UK].
An online article of The British Psychological Society's publication The Psychologist, supports the view that some sectors are more prone than others, stating that "...certain occupational groups have also been identified as being more vulnerable to bullying than others. Various studies (Hoel & Cooper, 2000; McAvoy & Murtagh, 2003; Quinne, 1999; Westhuses, 2004) have shown that bullying is more prevalent within the prison service, the healthcare and education sectors and amongst postal and telecommunications workers." [In Hazards to health: The problem of workplace bullying, 5 May 2007].
The high 'cost' of workplace bullying -
Putting the 'human' cost aside for a moment..."Bullying at work costs businesses £18bn every year," Royal & Sun Alliance (R&SA), the UK’s largest commercial insurer, reported in 2007 Further, R&SA stated that bullying in the workplace had become a major cause of employee stress, and represented a financial 'cost' to individual companies of 8-
The Workplace Law Network website (a membership site for UK employers and managers, specialising in employment law, health and safety and premises management), cites more recent research: "despite formal policies and government-
The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), a Washington State-
The potential dollar 'cost' to American based companies is even more startling. With an estimated 1 million workers in the US absent daily due to stress, Dr Paul Rosch, president of the American Institute of Stress (AIS), said 'We estimate it [stress] costs American industry $300 billion a year in terms of diminished productivity, employee turnover and insurance."
The reality, is that people do not contribute their best when they fear harassment, bullying or abuse, plus companies risk replacement costs when people leave, often face legal costs and suffer because of reduced productivity and commitment.
And according to the Crisis Prevention Institute (USA). "...research has clearly demonstrated that when targets believe someone at work has treated them disrespectfully, half will lose work time worrying about future interactions with the instigator, and half will contemplate changing jobs to avoid a recurrence. Most will tell friends, family and colleagues about how badly they have been treated, and some targets of bullying will leave the company". [20 Nov 2007, PRNewswire, Milwaukee].
Some sectors, such as teaching, appear to have an extraordinarily 'high' concentration of bullying in the workplace — with research by Australia's University of New England (UNE) finding in an online survey of both private and government schools — that 90% of teachers have been bullied by colleagues. The survey, which sought input from teachers from throughout Australia, also found " that a fifth of respondents had had their property damaged or had been physically abused or threatened with violence", and that over 90% "had suffered mentally or physically because of abuse." [30 Nov 2007, ABC Online News].
The bottom line is that workplace bullies are just far too expensive to keep. And Australian organisations would be wise to pay careful attention to the spate of workplace bully law suits taking place where claims in excess of one million dollars are being sought — if only to realise, according to Business Spectator, that "developing bullying at work policies and challenging existing corporate cultures is now no longer just a human resources function: it is a risk management function that needs to involve corporate boards. For investors, bullying at work is becoming a key risk that needs to be monitored in order to protect shareholder value". [03 Apr 2008, Australia].
Bullying is not a legitimate type of management 'style' -
According to new research released by the (UK) Ban Bullying At Work campaign, "two thirds of managers believe that a lack of management skills is the major factor contributing to bullying," while other contributory factors include such things as, "unrealistic targets (27%), authoritarian management styles (56%), personality (57%), and failure to address incidents (37%)." [2 Nov 2007].
The Workplace Bullying Institute (US) adds, "bullying isn't the same as tough management, but rather dumping misery on someone else." Recent research by the Institute has found that targets often suffered anxiety, depression and even post-
And from Dr Mark Hayes, "Workplace bullying has nothing whatsoever to do with 'tough management', 'employee motivation', 'productivity improvement' and similar nonsense. It's actually an incompetent, dysfunctional manager or supervisor who believes they must resort to crude threats or intimidation to encourage their staff, or who rationalises their (bullying) behaviour in these ways." [04 Feb 2007].
In a former media release [20 Nov 2007, PRNewswire, Milwaukee], the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), found that one quarter ( 24.5%) of the companies surveyed reported incidents of bullying during the prior year. In most incidents the victim was an employee (55.2%), while customers (10.5%), and supervisors (7%) were frequently listed as victims also. Even more concerning is that "Each week in the United States, an average of 33,000 workers are assaulted on the job and 14 are murdered", with "worker-
A 2007 Seminar titled, Workplace Homicide: Extreme Reactions to Toxic Work Environments, explores a number of US workplace related homicides and posits the question: "
After one such shooting in Arizona a Manager stated, "You’re trying to make rational sense out of an irrational act and a person as bent on destruction" (view associated short video, Murder By Proxy -
Workplace bullying and especially 'mobbing', which is an extremely traumatic event for the 'target'...is serious. It can lead to workplace homicides, and suicide as revealed in Know Bull! research. For far too long, 'targets' of workplace bullying are blamed their own deterioriation. In extreme cases, where the 'target' believes they have no option but to take matters into their own hands, it's understandable how these acts of violence can occur. But as this seminar concluded, "Yet, to blame these cases of workplace homicide solely on the psychological problems of the assailants lifts the blame from the managers who allowed a toxic workplace to arise and persist." 
Know Bull! research in the 2010 17-
Further, a newspaper article announcing the pending Australian Bill to stop workplace bullies stated, "In 2012, more than 2500 people committed suicide in Australia, including 450 children. In more than 80 per cent of cases, bullying was a contributing factor." [SMH, 16 Mar 2013]
The 'fear' of speaking about workplace bullying...
An online article published in 2007 by Edinburgh News said, "recent surveys show bullying is on the increase at work" and, more alarming, "that a high proportion of those bullied feel they can't speak to anyone about it". [13 Dec 2007, Edinburgh News].
And the 'fear' about speaking up may be well founded, with a survey conducted by Zogby on behalf of the Workplace Bullying Institute (p10), revealed that despite losing an estimated 21-
In the Australian context, workplace bullying was declared to be on the 'increase' from around 2001 with the release of the 2001 Trade Union Survey Report indicating that "more than half of the respondents...reported an unhappy and oppressive workplace, with 44% saying they were afraid to speak up." [Teaching Treasures].
Organisations are not doing enough to identify and combat bullying and violence in the workplace...
"Workplace bullying is on the rise, yet despite the prevalence of bullying and its damaging impact, organizational responses are spotty, at best," says the Crisis Prevention Institute (USA). [20 Nov 2007].
The reality, is that workplace bullying can happen in almost any employment scenario, with "the most affected industries being those with a very hierarchical management structure, high pressure jobs where staff can be seen as fairly expendable and also in very small, sometimes family-
In light of statistics showing that one in four people have been bullied at some point in their working lives, and with research indicating this figure could be as high as one in two — UK employment law specialists MHL Support stated, "It is very important that employers protect themselves and their employees from harassment and bullying in the workplace. It is necessary to have policies and procedures in place to deal with any instances and to ensure that all employees are aware of them. All complaints should be taken seriously, investigated and appropriate action taken. Equally, management should take responsibility to create a working environment that is free from harassment and bullying". [3 Dec 2007, UK].
Further, according to a survey conducted in 2005 by the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics regarding workplace violence prevention, while nearly five percent of the 7.1 million private industry business establishments surveyed in the United States had an incident of workplace violence within the 12 months prior to the survey — about one third of these "did not change their workplace violence prevention procedures after the incident", and almost "9 percent...had no program or policy addressing workplace violence" whatsoever. [20 Nov 2007, PRNewswire, Milwaukee].
From the Australian workplace perspective, Harmer's Workplace Lawyers stated in Lawyer's Weekly Online, “If bullying is occurring in a work environment, it is up to the employer to change the culture of the workplace — or face the consequences. If an employee is too scared to talk to their boss, or their boss’ boss about a bullying incident, the employer may be liable...The courts do not look favourably upon any organisation, regardless of size, that has an incident of bullying, but has no policy or procedure in place informing its employees how to deal with and report incidents of bullying or harassment. Similarly, employers must ensure such policies are very clearly understood, and enforced. [14 Jun 2007, Lawyer's Weekly Online].
The above statement by Harmer's Workplace Lawyers can be seen 'in action' with recent Australian cases such as DJ's $37million law suit; and Air Services combined $2million law suit by 2 employees.
"We are challenging businesses to speak out against bullying to create workplaces where employees can see clearly that bullying behaviours will not be tolerated," says Lyn Witheridge, CEO of the UK-
"Any business that has no specific formal route for an employee to tackle bullying and harassment is open to a contractual breach of the duty of care," says the UK-
From a historical perspective, all Australian States and Territories followed in the footsteps of the UK during the 1970’s and 80’s in a total overhaul of their OH & S legislation and regulatory framework following the release of the Robens Report in 1972 (This report was extremely influential in the reform of OH & S in the UK at the time).
Since then, Australian Occupational Health & Safety was regulated by the States and Territories, who had the responsibility of making and enforcing the OH&S laws in the form of Acts and Regulations. The various Acts and Regulations outlined the key duties of both employers and employees. Since workplace bullying and occupational violence creates unsafe working environments and poses a risk to employees' health — employers' obligations extended to eliminating or reducing the risk of bullying and violence in their workplaces — in other words, employers had a specific statutory duty to take 'all reasonably practicable steps' to protect their employees' health, safety and welfare.
On 5th April 2011, the Crimes Amendment (Bullying) Bill 2011 was tabled in the Parliament of Victoria (Australia). On 1st June 2011 The Crimes Amendment (Bullying) Bill 2011, was passed by Victorian Members of Parliament -
By May 2012 Australia's then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, announced a national review into workplace bullying. The Parliamentary committee report that followed, Workplace Bullying: We Just Want it to Stop
As time reveals, the changes Know Bull! heralded in 2010 became a reality, when the new, national 'Bully Laws' came into effect, from 1st January 2014. Note: For further information, see the opinion piece on the new anti-
The new laws mean that, organisations in Australia, for the first time, will be subject to the powers of the Fair Work Commission, as well as work health and safety (WHS) regulators for workplace bullying.
For further information about Australia's national anti-
Workplace guides in place for start of Australian anti-