Bullying used to be considered a ‘school yard’ activity, even a normal part of growing up. However, these days it is a genuine concern in business. For example, workplace bullying can happen to anyone, anywhere and at any time. In addition, managers and businesses are sometimes unsure how to investigate and handle allegations of Workplace Bullying and Harassment.
However, it’s imperative that you always respond effectively to any bullying complaints. For instance, you need to act quickly, thoroughly and in a fair and rigorous manner to uncover the truth of any concerns raised. After that, the facts will result in reliable decisions to abide by workplace legislation and improve your workplace culture.
What is Bullying?
Bullying is when people repeatedly and intentionally use words or actions that cause physical, social, and/or psychological harm. For example, it can involve an individual or a group misusing their power. In addition, it can affect one or more persons who feel unable to stop it.
- Can happen in person through words or actions
- Be obvious or hidden
- Can happen online in social spaces, via text messaging or via email
- Is, or has the potential, for repetition
- Bullies usually have more influence or power over someone else, or who want to make someone else feel less powerful or helpless.
- Can be physical, verbal, emotional, and it also includes messages, public statements, and behaviour online intended to cause distress or harm (also known as cyberbullying).
- Results will always be the same: severe distress and pain for the bullied person and will have immediate, medium, and long-term effects
Investigating Allegations of Workplace Bullying
There are 5 important steps to take, to ensure that any investigation undertaken is fair and stands up to scrutiny if it involves a court or tribunal. In addition, you should keep any complete and confidential records which relate to the incident.
1 – Investigate Fairly
- Give the respondent a clear summary of the allegations against them, including the facts and specific details such as who, what, where, and when.
- Inform the respondent directly of any likely disciplinary outcomes that may follow, if the allegations are true
- Ensure the respondent can have a support person present during any interviews.
2 – Remain Impartial
- Judge each matter on its own merits and make sure there is no perceived bias or predetermined view of the investigation’s outcome
- Ensure the investigator has not had any involvement in any of the alleged incidents
- Engage someone external to the organisation to conduct the investigation if you do not have someone who is completely impartial
3 – Investigate promptly
- Complete all investigations in an acceptable timeframe and reasonably manage any delays.
4 – Investigate Rigorously
- Be thorough and follow every step in your Workplace Bullying Policy.
- Adhere to the scope of your investigation, document, and record all evidence obtained throughout the investigation
- Be logical and clear in your fact-finding analysis.
5 – Maintain Confidentiality
- Conduct each interview individually and in a discrete location.
- Access to any related information should be limited to as few people as possible to ensure that the evidence is the recollection of the individuals interviewed, and is not potentially affected by a discussion or recollection of an apparent incident prior to that interview.
Ensuring Effective Policies Are in Place
To ensure that all aspects of care are covered, it’s important to implement policies and procedures for your business. Policies and procedures offer clear guidance to your employees regarding acceptable behaviour, how to report any behaviour that is seen as bullying or harassment and provide clear guidance on disciplinary action if this behaviour occurs. These policies should be based on your respect for all individuals and on your duty of care as stated in the Fair Work Act. For more information on this, see our blog on Diversity in the Workplace
An effective Workplace Bullying and Harassment Policy should include:
- Referenced legislation.
- The purpose of the policy and why EEO is important.
- Who the policy applies to.
- The objectives of the business in relation to Workplace Bullying and Harassment.
- Policy Implementation.
- Your workplace culture.
To implement your own Workplace Bullying and Harassment policy, you can download our template at the bottom of this page.
Workplace Bullying occurs when an individual or group of individuals repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards a worker or group of workers and the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety. Businesses and managers play an essential role in promoting and exhibiting inclusive and empathetic behaviours that will inspire employees to do the same. Proper investigation and action on allegations of Workplace Bullying will ensure your business not only abides by workplace legislation but contributes to the inclusive workplace culture organisations are striving for.
To see further how dita Solutions can help you improve your workplace culture by building effective policies and procedures, contact us here.