30 November 2016

RESEARCH: Bullying and Sexual Harassment Rife in the Workplace

Humiliation, exclusion, harassment and unwanted sexual advances.

New research has found adult employees are increasingly finding themselves struggling at work and are victims of cruel and juvenile taunts that were once exclusively reserved for the school yard.
However, is workplace bullying on the rise, or has there been a shift in culture to where it is no longer tolerated? With employees more confident to report abuse.

Government body, Safe Work Australia, has released a report that found one in ten employees claim they have been bullied at work, either by a boss, colleague or customer.

The research also found employees believe that it is not co-workers, but supervisors who commit majority of the bullying.

Alarmingly, instances of isolated conflict are even more prevalent, with one in three employees saying they have been verbally berated, while another one in four have said to have been publicly humiliated.

One in five also report to have been physically assaulted by a customer, client or in the medical industry, a patient.

Safe Work Australia found that bullying is most likely to occur in the power and water supply sectors or the transport and mining industries.  It is also women who are more likely to be physically assaulted or sexually harassed.

On the other hand men are subject to being sworn at or racially abused.

And the implications of such bullying don’t come cheap.

These heartless acts are costing us $36 billion a year in healthcare and lost business productivity, according to the report.

Meanwhile a number of women have spoken out about what it feels like when a customer crosses the line.

spoke to about 20 women who work across a range of industries including hospitality, retail, education and health.

Many women confessed to verbal or physical harassment and in some cases rape and stalking incidents also occurred.

Many employees believe putting up with such events is “just part of the job” however many are unaware that a change to the Sex Discrimination Act has made it illegal for customers to sexually harass employees.

However the lack of campaigns to protect staff against these acts has many fuming.

“If we were seeing those sorts of injury rates for a piece of machinery, you’d expect to see ads on TV, there would be approved training, there’d be prosecutions,” workplace relations and discrimination lawyer Lisa Heap argued.
“You’d have to conclude it’s entrenched sexism in regulating authorities.”
Any unwelcome sexual behaviour which makes a person feel humiliated, offended or intimated falls under the new law.

: https://tenplay.com.au/news/national/november/bullying-and-sexual-harassment-rife-in-the-workplace

26 November 2016

Don’t be afraid to confront bullies in the workplace

Bullying can be as harmful in the workplace as it is in schools, causing well-understood effects on people, plus a long list of challenges for organisations. More sobering to business leaders are the irrefutable statistics – bullying is costing businesses billions annually.

As explained by Lisa Castle, the vice president of human resources at the University of British Columbia in Canada:

"Its impact is enormous: disengagement; loss of creativity and productivity; sick leave, benefit and turnover costs." For every short-term result that a bully achieves, there is a list of longer-term negative business impacts that far outweigh any temporary benefits.

The good news is that increased public awareness, research, and an expanded appreciation of the costs/effects of bullying have paved the way for efforts to address it.

Further, there are many tools, experts and ideas for formulating an effective action plan. In the highly diverse Middle Eastern workplaces, to effectively address bullying, it is essential to have skills and a common language to talk about difficult things, across differences and in a consistent manner. While managing aggressive behaviour is difficult, it’s worth speaking up and taking action – for you, your workplace culture and the bottom line.

Having a discussion about bullying is never enjoyable but that doesn’t mean it should be avoided. Most organisations are generally unprepared and terrible at managing workplace bullying. There are many contributors:

Business leaders are afraid to confront bullies

While most leaders are aware that workplace harassment is a severe problem, they are often afraid to deal with it. Bullying is a sensitive topic because it requires a difficult discussion – confrontation, conflict and courage as much as it requires tools. Fear often feeds the problem: fear of the actual confrontation, of what else might be uncovered.

Having talked with plenty of executives, it is fair to state that fear of having that discussion is a serious impediment to eliminating the issue. The result is paralysis, and so the bullying continues.

A focus on results

In our hyper-competitive world, there are intense demands for results. Organisations become so focused on short-term results that they ignore how they are achieved. If there is one commonality among bullies, it’s a gift for whipping up results.

Misinterpretation of a ­"competitive workplace"

Organisations confuse healthy competition with a "survival of the fittest" model for workplace behaviour. There have been stories about Amazon, Apple and other global companies where staff members are regularly challenged to outperform their colleagues using over-the -top rewards for the winner.

It is possible to have both workplace respect and healthy competition. Staff members do not need to be abused to perform to their fullest. The truth is that by addressing bullying and empowering staff, leaders improve workplace culture, increase employee engagement and motivate innovation.

A belief that bullying is a ­leadership style

Bullying is the opposite of leadership. In my opinion, executives who use this excuse to support a tormentor are probably afraid to confront the problem. They discount the level of the bullying, rationalise it as a leadership issue or find another excuse to avoid actively engaging. They leave the mess alone, hoping it will sort itself out. That never happens if leaders don’t speak up.

Lack of effective policies

Most organisations have a harassment policy that outlines what is unacceptable workplace behaviour. How­ever, many organisations don’t have an effective complaints process. Without a fair, impartial, confidential and effective complaints and conflict resolution processes, the policy is meaningless.

The above reasons are why organisations fail to respond effectively to cases of bullying.

There are undoubtedly others, too. What is important is that even though the vast majority of leaders acknowledge the problem should be eradicated, very few actually do. The effect on organisational success is significant and totally preventable. With the help of others and a willingness to confront the problem head-on, long-term improvements to the workplace culture and bottom line await.

by: Paul Pelletier a consultant with PDSi, a coaching and leadership development company that has created its own certified programme, HardTalk, to help individuals and teams have the difficult conversations necessary for success

22 November 2016

Sydney Woman paid more than $1 million paid out for Workplace Bullying at NSW Government Agency

The interrogation came out of the blue and continued mercilessly, even while she was doubled over sobbing.

The woman, who was 41 at the time of the incident, has been awarded more than $1 million in a negotiated workplace bullying settlement.

See here for video interview with Lawyer
Australia's million dollar workplace bullying payoutThe lawyer of a woman who was the victim of workplace bullying explains the details of the million dollar case.  

The bullying she experienced at a NSW government agency five years ago has rendered her unable to ever work again.

As two bosses hurled accusations at her during a meeting called to provide her with feedback on an internal job application, the woman who could only speak on the condition of anonymity, said she was in shock and disbelief.

Now aged 46, the victim still has no idea what motivated the attack.
Now aged 46, the victim still has no idea what motivated the attack. Photo: Louie Dovis
Now aged 46, she still has no idea what motivated the attack which had come without any warning. A string of psychiatrists have provided evidence that her mental injury has rendered her unable to return to work. "I can never get those five years back. I can't do what I used to do," she said.

"My career was going well. The agency had just paid for me to do a public service management course. I thought I was earmarked for senior management and then this happened."

The woman's lawyer, Lucinda Gunning from Carroll and O'Dea Lawyers in Sydney, said the more than $1 million payout was made up of two components – one for total and permanent disablement, which was paid out by a private insurer, and a workers compensation payment, for past and future earning capacity.

Lucinda Gunning from Carroll & O'Dea Lawyers says the $1m payout is the highest sum she has seen paid for a workplace ...
Lucinda Gunning from Carroll & O'Dea Lawyers says the $1m payout is the highest sum she has seen paid for a workplace bullying claim.  Photo: Ryan Stuart
"In my experience, this is the highest sum that I have seen paid for a workplace bullying claim," she said. Like many cases of workplace bullying, the circumstances at first glance appear trivial.

The woman who worked in middle management had made an error in an internal application for another job within her state government agency. She had accidentally duplicated an answer to one question in response to another. She says she accepted the error had effectively invalidated the application.

However, her bosses insisted on meeting to provide feedback despite her saying it was unnecessary because she understood her error.

I can never walk into a room with two people in an interview again because of the way they dealt with me.
When she sat down with a male and female supervisor, they accused her of having an inappropriate relationship in the office and of passing off a colleague's ideas as her own, which she flatly denies.
"I was blindsided by it. I couldn't understand where the allegations were coming from," she says.
"Had they given me some sort of notice or asked me in a less hostile environment, I could explain it. It was just incorrect. But they just kept going and going.

"I was sobbing and doubled over and they were still making allegations about information sharing.

"It just didn't stop. At one point they said we can put you in contact with the counselling service.
"I said I will absolutely need it after this meeting and still they went on. I don't know why I didn't walk out. It went on for ages."
When the meeting was finally over, the public servant went on annual leave. 

When she returned to work, she was forced to work with one of the supervisors who had bullied her in the meeting.
"I asked to be moved out of that department. But they felt the need to humiliate me further by sitting me outside their office and the team I used to manage," she said.

"I wasn't allowed to contribute.
"I couldn't breath in there. I felt so useless.
"It got to the point where I would sit in the bathroom for six hours and no one would notice I was there.
"I didn't do any work because I couldn't."
The woman, who described herself as a resilient person before the experience with bullying, was sent to a mediation session with the female supervisor.
"The woman attacked me again to the point where the mediator told her to stop. It was horrible," she said.
"She said I had given another industry representative information about a meeting for stakeholders. But they had sent out a notice of the meeting. It was ridiculous. There was a clear explanation for how someone I was accused of telling found out about the meeting.
"I was trying to explain it to them, but they wouldn't listen.
"The woman accused me of trying to take credit for someone else's work in my job application. I said I wasn't taking credit, I had delegated the work and I was her boss.
"The tone of the meeting could have been very different. They could have just said: 'Could you just please go through this with me'.
"But they were only interested in attacking me. 
"As a result they changed my life. I did not leave that office the same person I was when I arrived."
By May, 2012, the woman left the organisation feeling "hopeless".
Every time she entered a lift she would look to the ground to see if she could identify the shoes of her supervisors. 
"I was terrified. I couldn't be near them," she said.
The woman's complaints were initially investigated in house in what she describes as an unfair process.
It took five years to finalise her claim during which insurance companies put her and her children under surveillance.
"This is a psychological injury, not a physical one," she said.
"Everything was challenged. I was pushed to the absolute limit. I'm surprised I'm actually still here."
After five years of "hell", the woman said she had hoped to feel better now the pressure is off.
"But I still don't," she said.
"I can never get those five years back. I can't do what I used to do."

20 November 2016

How to start changing an unhealthy work environment by Glenn D. Rolfsen at TEDxOslo

Do you think backbiting is happening at your workplace or place of study?

Glenn Rolfsen's talk is about what contributes to a toxic work environment and what the significant factors are that determine our working life quality. His approach addresses how to achieve a permanent end to slander and bullying among adults in the workplace.

Glenn D. Rolfsen is a psychotherapist working in corporate health service in Oslo.

He has also worked as a teacher to educate gestalt therapists in Norway and several European countries. He is particularly concerned with the psychosocial work environment in enterprises. As corporate counsel and leadership consultant, he works daily to improve working life quality for employees.