New Anti-bullying laws

Recent amendments to the Fair Work Act introduced new workplace anti-bullying measures.

The new laws commencing on 1 January 2014 will allow workers to apply to the Fair Work Commission to stop the workplace bullying.

To minimise legal exposure, organisations are required to take all reasonable steps to prevent bullying and harassment at work. These steps include ongoing training to identify and manage these destructive workplace behaviours.

Our leading edge, interactive workshop for Managers and staff enables workplaces to effectively deal with workplace bullying, harassment and discrimination.

The program includes the application of an award winning 3D simulation tool to provide insights into effectively managing harmful workplace behaviours.

Details at


Bullying Blocks Diversity Dividend

There is a strong business case for greater female representation in senior management roles. Gender balanced teams have been found to provide improved decision-making and companies with several senior-level women tend to perform better financially.

Research by McKinsey found that companies with three or more women on their senior-management teams scored higher on nine important dimensions of organisation including leadership and motivation. The Reibey Institute found that ASX500 companies with female directors delivered a significantly higher return on equity over a 5 year period.

So why are there only 14% of women directors in the ASX 200? What are the current challenges to ensuring that the benefits of gender diversity are realised and how can these be addressed?

Though almost 30 years since the Sex Discrimination Act was introduced, the barriers remain and insufficient headway has been made. In fact in areas such as pay equity the disparity is getting worse. The many challenges to women’s advancement still include both unconscious and blatant bias and discrimination; lack of flexibility; lack of accountability for change at senior levels; lack of promotional opportunities; poor job design; inappropriate sourcing, without equivalency given to competencies that equate with women’s experience, or the strengths actually required for today’s leadership, such as participatory decision making and team-based leadership skills.

Research has found that organisations with more effective talent management cultures have a higher percentage of women at the executive level. Yet safety and equity, the most basic of talent management issues, are not adequately addressed in many workplaces. Workplace cultures are often hostile with behaviours ranging from ongoing incivility, to procedural injustices, exclusionary tactics and outright harassment. Such dysfunctional cultures hold back the much needed critical mass of women from entering leadership positions.

Bullying and harassment costs Australian workplaces billions of dollars per annum and sex discrimination and workplace psychological injury claims are on the rise. Human Rights Commission research found that nearly 33% of women had experienced sexual harassment and sex based discrimination formed the largest category of complaints received by the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board in 2010-11.

New and innovative ways of dealing with the barriers to gender equity are needed. One of the most effective methodologies that we have found for addressing bullying, harassment and discrimination is the Strategic Relationship Management coaching process. This method applies a 3D simulation tool to facilitate the deep conversations, unique insights and creative solutions to the individual and workplace culture issues that enable harmful behaviours at work. You can experience this methodology in our leading edge workshops. Details at

Bully Blocking Strategies

Being bullied at work can be devastating for the target of these destructive workplace behaviours and can have a significant impact on the business bottom-line. It has been estimated that up to 50% of stress-related illness is the result of bullying and costs Australian workplaces up to $36 billion annually.

Bullying is repeated, unreasonable behaviour that intimidates, humiliates or undermines someone and could put their health, safety or welfare at risk. This can include:
• Excessive work scrutiny
• Setting up people to fail
• Shouting or swearing at someone
• Constantly changing the work goals
• Gossiping or spreading harmful rumours
• Aggressive, belittling or frightening behaviour
• Threatening to make someone’s work life difficult.

Bullying can be verbal or physical behaviours or in writing. Cyber bullying is on the increase and particularly harmful as it can be difficult for the target to identify the perpetrator. Also cyber bullying can be witnessed by thousands of people on the internet, rather than just being localised to a particular workplace where it is witnessed by relatively few people.

Many people ask “but why not just say “No” to the bullying behaviours?” There are many reasons for this. For example the lack of trusted workplace grievance processes, fear of reprisals or job loss and embarrassment about not being able to deal with the problem. On the whole people just want to fit in and be liked and don’t want to cause trouble for themselves or anyone else in the workplace.

Bullying at work needs to be addressed at both organisational and individual levels.
Here’s a few important considerations. Bullying is an organisational culture issue and both a legal and ethical responsibility for leaders and managers to address. It is important for managers to understand their management style and correct for inappropriate behaviours such as taking credit for other people’s ideas or shouting at staff to get things done. These reflect dysfunctional, incompetent management practices.

There needs to be a zero tolerance for bullying behaviours in the workplace with managers taking immediate action if they witness these behaviours or receive a complaint from staff. Most importantly senior managers must model inclusive workplace behaviours and take disciplinary action when appropriate. A trusted grievance procedure is a vital component for dealing with workplace bullying.

A strategy for people experiencing bullying is to keep yourself safe and get support from people you trust such as human resource professionals, EAP provider or your workplace contact officer. Also, as you may be feeling stressed, anxious or depressed it is important to see your doctor if you are having physical or emotional difficulties. Other things to do include reading your bullying prevention policies and understanding your workplace grievance procedure. Please – don’t blame yourself or retaliate – this will only compound the problem.

Our innovative Bullying & Harassment Prevention Workshop applies a unique 3D simulation tool to gain insights into the workplace culture and individual behaviours that create and inhibit functional and dysfunctional workplaces. The program provides many helpful strategies for both employers and employees wanting to know how to prevent and deal with workplace bullying and harassment. Details at

Strategies for Less Stress at Work.

Employee stress has been estimated to cost Australian employers $10.11 billion annually in presenteeism and absenteeism alone. Mental stress is now the 5th most common type of compensation claim and causes the longest time off work with the median close to 10 weeks of leave. Understanding the causes of stress and implementing prevention strategies are key considerations for both organisational profitability and employee wellbeing.

Stress involves physical, behavioural, perceptual and psychological responses caused by workplace stressors. For the individual, stress can lead to fatigue, anxiety, depression, tension, heart disease, irritability and difficulty concentrating. Employer impacts include staff turnover, reduced commitment, withdrawal, procrastination, risk of injury and incivility, all leading to lost productivity.

Yet not all stressors lead to negative outcomes. Challenge stressors can actually have the effect of producing positive work outcomes when they are considered manageable by the worker. Challenge-related work stress results from challenging job demands such as job complexity and high levels of responsibility.

Conversely, hindrance stressors interfere with an employee’s ability to succeed at work and include not understanding what is expected, inadequate resources, workplace politics, role conflict and red tape.

Challenge and hindrance stressors can have opposite effects on behavioural and other work outcomes. For example workers experiencing challenge stressors are more likely to exhibit taking charge behaviours. These behaviours included actions to adopt improved procedures for the organisation, implementing solutions to pressing workplace issues and instituting more effective work methods.

In contrast, people experiencing hindrance stressors are more likely to have an increase in sabotaging work behaviours such as making a manager look bad or undermining a work project. People who experience more workplace hindrance stressors also have increased feelings of fatigue and lack of energy.

To address workplace stress, organisations need to understand and shore up the challenge stressors while addressing the hindrance stressors that can increase undermining behaviours, stress and fatigue. To read more go to

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Welcome to the Diversity and Flexibility Blog.

Our blog provides expert content and comment on a range of workplace issues including organisational effectiveness, diversity management, equity, bullying & harassment prevention, stress, wellbeing, workplace safety, work and life balance and flexible work practices.

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I look forward to reading your comments


Kerry Fallon Horgan | Managing Partner | Flexibility At Work