Bullying prevention in the workplace

Preventing workplace bullying in the construction industry

Workplace bullying poses a significant risk to physical and psychological health and safety. Failing to address this can breach Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws. This guide is tailored for employers considering the engagement of female apprentices and women in the construction industry, providing insights into identifying, preventing, and responding to workplace bullying.

 Understanding workplace bullying

Understanding workplace bullying

Workplace bullying is characterised by repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards an individual or a group of workers, creating a risk to health and safety. Examples include abusive language, aggressive conduct, victimisation, and unjustified criticism. Recognising and addressing these behaviours early is crucial to maintaining a positive work environment and safeguarding health and safety.

What constitutes workplace bullying?

Over time, repeated, unreasonable behaviour that risks health and safety falls under workplace bullying. Unreasonable behaviour includes actions perceived as victimising, humiliating, intimidating, or threatening. Examples include offensive language, exclusion, spreading misinformation, and setting unreasonable deadlines.

What constitutes workplace bullying

Exceptions to workplace bullying

Ignoring a single incident of unreasonable behaviour may not classify as workplace bullying, but it should not be overlooked as it may escalate. Reasonable management actions, executed lawfully and reasonably, are not workplace bullying. For instance, appropriate management actions include setting realistic performance goals, fair rostering, and providing constructive feedback.

Unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment

Unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment

Unreasonable behaviour may involve unlawful discrimination or sexual harassment, which, while not bullying, requires attention. Discrimination based on protected traits is prohibited, and sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual conduct. Seeking advice from relevant authorities such as the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Fair Work Commission is recommended.

Managing workplace conflict

Managing workplace conflict

Differences of opinion and disagreements, while common, do not necessarily constitute workplace bullying. Effective conflict resolution is essential to prevent escalation. Unresolved conflicts, however, may lead to bullying, emphasising the importance of proactive conflict management.

Preventing workplace bullying

Workplace bullying can manifest through various channels, including verbal abuse, physical intimidation, and digital platforms. Employers must implement effective control measures, promote a positive workplace culture, and address issues promptly to prevent workplace bullying. This involves setting clear expectations, providing training, and fostering open communication.

Taking action against workplace bullying

Addressing workplace bullying requires a multi-faceted approach. Employers should establish clear policies, encourage reporting, conduct thorough investigations, and implement corrective measures. Timely intervention is crucial to repairing relationships and maintaining a healthy work environment.

By proactively addressing workplace bullying, employers can create an inclusive and supportive construction industry that prioritises the well-being of all workers, including female apprentices and women.

Impact of workplace bullying

Workplace bullying can be harmful not only to the person experiencing it but also to those who witness it. The impact varies based on individual characteristics and specific situations, encompassing the following effects:

  • Distress, anxiety, panic attacks, or sleep disturbances
  • Physical ailments such as muscular tension, headaches, fatigue, and digestive problems
  • Loss of self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Deteriorating relationships with colleagues, family, and friends
  • Negative impact on work performance, concentration, and decision-making ability
  • Depression
  • Thoughts of suicide

Moreover, workplace bullying can have adverse effects on the overall work environment, leading to direct and indirect costs for a business, including:

  • High staff turnover and associated recruitment and training costs
  • Low morale and motivation
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Lost productivity
  • Disruption to work during investigations of complex complaints
  • Costs associated with counselling, mediation, and support
  • Expensive workers’ compensation claims or legal actions
  • Damage to the reputation of the business

By taking proactive measures to prevent workplace bullying, employers can foster an inclusive and supportive construction industry, promoting the well-being of all workers, including female apprentices and women.

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