Workplace bullying attacks your bottom line – how to deal with it

Posted by Shelley Eden on September 13 2019 in News

Often I am called in to help solve bullying issues in the workplace. Usually, this is when the relationships between the parties is already close to breakdown. For instance, not long ago I helped a medical practice with an investigation into multiple complaints of bullying and sexual harassment. There were complaints and cross-complaints, multiple witnesses and multiple people accused of misconduct. The facts took a significant amount of unwinding and it was a difficult situation for all.

Workplace bullying attacks your bottom line

For that practice, the issue wasn’t new, and had been present in the workplace for some time. This is consistent with most cases of bullying and harassment that I am called into assist with, as organisations often leave dealing with these issues far longer than is advisable. By then, relationships have often irretrievably broken down. The matter becomes costly and difficult to remedy.

Fortunately, sometimes, I also am brought in to help organisations to understand bullying and harassment, and manage it as it arises. So, what is good practice here?

The first step

The first step is understanding what bullying and harassment is, and that it can take many forms. It is often hidden, and your employees’ decisions to report will be directly correlated with their trust in you to deal with it properly.

Some of this is unclear for employers. What is clear is that bullying attacks your bottom line. It takes time, energy and resources. It can be costly for the business in terms of claims but costlier in terms of turnover and reduced productivity. 

What to do in practice

Of paramount importance is the implementation of strong policy. Your staff need to understand what the rules are, and how to respond to an issue in the workplace when it arises. The policy shouldn’t be a complex 10-volume document sitting on your shelves (or on your intranet). It is most effective when it is a live document that is meaningful and gives staff an understanding of their situation and an avenue to take their concerns.

A good policy will start with a definition of bullying and harassment. WorkSafe defines bullying as…

‘Repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that can lead to physical or psychological harm’.

From there you need a strong statement rejecting bullying and harassment in your workplace, and processes that will be followed when complaints are made. There needs to be points of contact for staff to make complaints to, and classification of bullying and harassment as misconduct.


In the current work environment, employers who manage bullying and harassment well and their response to it is of the highest quality, will become employers of choice. Those who don’t will fall behind.

Author: Shelley Eden

This paper gives a general overview of the topics covered and is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice.