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Workplace Bullying Risk Assessment

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Components of Workplace Conflict Risk Assessment



To comply with Occupational Health and Safety legislation and WorkSafe guidance notes, it is critical that management determine the incidence of workplace bullying in the organisation. All organisations have conflict, however it is important to distinguish between normal conflict due to misunderstandings, communication styles and differences as distinct from repeated abuse through workplace bullying. Workplace bullying is both overt and covert, in many instances it is covert (hidden) and subtle. It is not easy to detect and there is a reluctance by staff to report incidences. However, it is essential to uncover workplace bullying to ensure staff and managers are both healthy and safe at work.

Susan Carew is a trained market analyst and will assess your workplace by using a risk assessment process to ensure the organisation is complying with Occupational Health and Safety legislation and WorkSafe (Safe Work) guidance notes.  The process that will be utilised will be to ask management questions about minimising risk, to check policies and quality procedures, determine grievance processes and information flows.  A workplace bullying risk assessment survey of employees will be undertaken to gather information on the incidence of workplace bullying, understanding of the meaning of workplace bullying, awareness of processes and what to do when it happens.  The workplace bullying risk assessment survey will evaluate staff and management compliance with WorkSafe (Safe Work) guidance. The research can be conducted together with focus group/s to gather qualitative information to determine the depth of knowledge, how people handle bullying and what is required to deal with it, tailored to your workplace.  The focus group/s will also provide further information about the corporate culture which is very important for understanding communication patterns, levels of toxicity and if there is a underlying sense of powerlessness through ineffective or inappropriate communication and behaviours. Powerlessness is the key issue and it can manifest in non-verbal/subtle behaviours. This is an emerging area that is not well understood. When you realise what is causing powerlessness in both the target and the person bullying. Any form of harassment is another manifestation of powerlessness parading as power. In the work I have done I have come to recognise that seeking of power is the key issue.

A risk assessment of workplace bullying is essential and can be part of the case proving that the organisation has taken measures to ensure compliance with legislation and WorkSafe (Safe Work).  This places the organisation in a better position to not be subject to fines of over $1,000,000 for failure to comply. The assessment cannot guarantee compliance with legislation but provides excellent indicators on active compliance e.g. policy and training, the incidence and witnessing of workplace bullying (pre-empt internal problems), effectiveness of complaints handling, climate of emotional wellbeing, and provision of information on whether further training on workplace bullying, resolution of conflict and wellbeing is required. Therefore, this becomes an important preventative strategy to ensure safe working conditions.  This is what places organisations in a proactive position insulating them against adverse publicity, risk management internally and the monitoring of workplace health and safety.  Moreover, when bullying and poor communications are handled effectively the organisation becomes a place where people want to work and a positive reputation will quickly spread.

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Components of Workplace Risk Assessment

A Workplace Risk assessment can utiilse all of the research approaches below or can be tailored depending on the organisation and budget. Exploratory research will determine management, culture, policy,  OH&S policy and if there is a conflict management process. This provides information on the current situation and how conflict is managed.

Focus groups are a qualitative research technique which enables people to come together and discuss conflict.  This would be done without using names or particular situations at work, but to gain an understanding of employee awareness of bullying, policy, management processes and ideas they may have to minimise or eradicate bullying or violence in all its forms at work.  This session could be utilised to determine how people deal with conflict – whether it is better to say nothing, to ignore, to engage or to seek management assistance.  So it is an approach to open the subject up sensitively to gain an understanding of where employees stand and how they manage conflict.

The third component of Workplace Risk Assessment would be a general climate survey. This would be conducted through survey monkey or emailed.  This process would be anonymous and enable staff and managers to be able to disclose if bullying is occurring.  Confidentiality would be assured as it is a sensitive area.  The survey would give an indication of whether people are aware of Workcover bullying/violence criteria, if they can identify bullying, what they would do in the situation and how they would report it.  The survey would seek to identify the incidence of bullying enabling management to be able to gain an insight into what is often unseen in organisations.

Conflict and bullying are opportunities to develop a greater understanding of human dynamics and power relationships.  If management look upon this process as developing efficiencies and harmony, it will impact the bottom line.  Human potential is infinite and the real reward here is learning how to unlock real potential in people.  If they are in environments where they feel stressed and fearful of contributing or choose to leave, there are opportunity costs that management do lose.  When employees feel a sense of belonging and ownership in organisations and feel they can contribute proactively within teams that are open to sharing ideas, then management may be surprised by how creativity and confidence can improve practices, people, products and service.  Therefore, gaining an understanding of blockages such as workplace violence and bullying, will change the climate of work for the better.

DESK RESEARCH (Exploratory Research)

  • Management structure
  • Type of organisational culture
  • Workplace design (open/closed)
  • Workplace practices and norms
  • Degree of organisational change (short to long term)
  • OH&S policy – workplace violence and bullying
  • Conflict management process inclusive of complaints handling
  • Previous violence and bullying incidents
  • Employee complaints/reports/exist surveys
  • Job description, roles and work practices
  • Other relevant sources of information (internal/external)

FOCUS GROUP/S (Qualitative Research)

  • Understanding bullying
  • Witnessing or direct experience of bullying (handled sensitively with a focus on other organisations)
  • Awareness of Occupational Health and Safety and Workcover procedures
  • Strategies on how to deal with workplace bullying
  • Awareness of complaints handling and conflict resolution
  • Suggestions for bystander involvement in conflict situations
  • Other ideas and input

(Quantitative Research)

  • Demographic and workplace profiling of staff;
  • Determining emotional wellbeing at work;
  • Perception of values and personality of the corporate culture;
  • Deriving the incidence of direct and indirect bullying, harassment and violence in the workplace and over the life experience;
  • Ascertaining the level of understanding of Workcover Authority guidance criteria on bullying behaviours;
  • Determining awareness and usage of the complaints handling process;
  • Determining levels of satisfaction with complaints handling;
  • Awareness of internal and external professionals engaged in advising, compensating, advocating, providing legal advice on dealing with bullying, harassment or violence issues;
  • Determining awareness and understanding of Occupational Health and Safety legislation;
  • Awareness of the range of legislation offering protections in the workplace;
  • Training needs analysis;
  • Overall satisfaction with the workplace climate.