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Bullying, harassment and abuse are workplace hazards too

By Karyl Estrella MIML


Genuine human concern and a duty of care means for most managers maintaining a safe workplace is a must. Hence offices are fitted with fire systems, first aid kits and evacuation plans are set out. We do everything in our power to eliminate safety hazards. However, if we think about what a workplace hazard is it’s really anything that could cause potential harm, injury and illness to your people. So, beyond trip, slip or electrical hazards, psychological and emotional risks should also be removed.

Compared to most common hazards, psychological and emotional threats, such as bullying, harassment and abuse result in more severe damage to the employee’s wellbeing. Even more of a concern is that it may not always be easy to detect.

Managers and leaders play a crucial role here. According to Safe Work Australia, one of the central reasons for the occurrence of bullying and harassment in workplaces is the lack of managerial regard for creating an emotionally and mentally safe work environment. Clearly, this is a significant concern for all managers and leaders.


A danger hidden in plain sight

This issue is magnified when we consider the impact of the workplace on an employee’s life. In the 12 months preceding March 2018, the figures reveal Australians spent 20 billion hours at work.

Creating a safe environment becomes even more critical given the current state of Australian workplaces. Alarmingly, the Australian Human Rights Commission reports that 23% of women and 16% of men have experienced sexual harassment at work.

If employees are spending the majority of their time in an environment where they do not feel safe, it will no doubt affect their engagement, productivity and loyalty to an organisation. Even worse, is that the effects of bullying, harassment and abuse have far-reaching impacts on how they function within society.


A solution is imperative

There are some ways workplaces can respond to these severe hazards. These include:

  • Setting clear guidance. Implement a zero-tolerance approach when it comes to bullying, harassment and any form of gross disrespect in the workplace. Your policies should support this through clear guidelines and consequences for offenders.
  • Offering information and support. Supply all employees with clear information on what they should do if they observe any form of abuse in the workplace. Provide support services for employees who have experienced bullying, harassment and violence – regardless if it’s at home or work.
  • Walking the talk. Leaders in the workplace must be role models of respectful behaviour. By setting the tone from the top, you build an environment where people feel they are safe from abusive behaviour.


Embrace the right outlook

Empowering managers and leaders with the skills, knowledge and courage to create a positive influence on our workplaces – and society – is at the heart of what we do at IML ANZ. That’s why we’ve focused our Leadership Outlook 2019 series on creating safe and respectful workplaces. We’ve partnered with White Ribbon to deliver a national series of thought-provoking and practical workshops.

During each session, a panel of local leaders will share real-world experiences and discuss:

  • Best practice approaches to support employees who are experiencing domestic violence, bullying or harassment in or out of the workplace
  • Knowledge and skills in applying a strategic, evidence-based methodology drawn from White Ribbon’s work with organisations on the Workplace Accreditation Program
  • Strategies to support staff which minimises risk and promotes a supportive workplace culture
  • Resources and tools to assist in creating a safe and respectful workplace
  • Practical case studies to work through key learnings from the sessions

We all deserve to feel safe. Join us for an event that will help transform workplaces, leadership and society.

Visit for locations, dates and to book.

Karyl is IML ANZ’s content producer. Contact her for queries regarding the IML ANZ blog and quarterly magazine, Leadership Matters.


Offer Ends 30 June 2024

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