Workplace Bullying in Australia – Official Report

Australia’s government takes workplace bullying very seriously. Perhaps we should too.


Australia passed a safe workplace bill several years back and the government has to file annual reports. This is basically like America’s OSHA. They are charged with trying to keep people from being hurt in the workplace – like people falling from heights or getting lung diseases because of exposure to chemicals in the workplace.

One of the things they track, in addition to employees falling from great heights, is workplace bullying.  Australia views workplace bullying to be a seriously enough problem that their workplace safety group considers it part of their mission. For those of you in America, this is like having OSHA issue guidelines on how to reduce workplace bullying in addition to their reports on how to use explosives safely while mining. (And no, I’m not making that up – in the 2014/2015 report – Workplace bullying is on page 38, explosives and mining are on page 39 – see: http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/about/Publications/Documents/938/safe-work-australia-annual-report-2014-15.pdf).

You may be wondering why bullying is listed among other more egregious ways people can get hurt in the workplace.  Well, it has to do with workplace culture and the impact workplace culture has on health and safety issues.  That and the fact that workplace bullying causes psychological harm that can be quantified.

So – here’s the link. First off, workplace bullying is harmful and causes an amazing amount of lost productivity. But that’s not what I want to talk about here. What I want you to get out of this post is that when people are being bullied, they are less likely to report health and safety hazards.

This isn’t even about whistle blowing. If an employee goes to their manager to report a problem, a real problem that will have health and safety implications and the manager responds to them as if THEY are causing problems by alerting people to the problem, employees learn very quickly that the manager doesn’t want to know or deal with this.

If the manager starts treating the employee who reported a problem badly to “punish” them for causing problems, well – everyone in the workplace notices and understands and gets the message. Health and safety isn’t important in this company. Speaking out will get you in trouble.

Want to know how things like the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster happen? The Deepwater explosion killed 11 people, injured another 16. This wasn’t simply an environmental disaster. It was also a health and safety disaster.  And it was caused, by a workplace culture that didn’t tolerate people bringing health and safety problems to the attention of their managers.  When problems were brought up – they were ignored.

Want to ensure you have a safe workplace, make sure your employees aren’t being bullied by managers who don’t want to be bothered with problems because they know, their bosses don’t want to be bothered by problems and so on up the chain of command to the very tippy top.

Is workplace bullying a leadership problem?  Yes. Yes it is.

Want to learn how to get it to stop? Take one of my courses at Humanist Learning Systems.

5 comments:

  1. Great post. as an employment discrimination lawyer and also an employee at an international EHS consultancy, my passion the past 6 years has been increasing awareness of workplace bullying. Like discrimination (but not status based) and prohibited in many countries.
    Really pleased to see you make the important OHS connection.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! Curious to know more about what you see as the biggest problem that needs to be addressed. So much of this is interconnected. Like - language use that grooms certain groups or people for further targeting (think sexist language against women or racist language). Lack of reporting or trust. That sort of thing.

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  2. ps just sent you a linked in request-hope you'll connect. thx

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  3. I really like your good infomation,Thanks and please keep sharing it with us.
    Turnaround Consultant

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