Creating a positive workplace culture

There are a range of actions that can be taken to enhance dignity and respect in the workplace and create a positive workplace culture.

These examples are taken from various documents and policies, including the publication Bullies Not Wanted. Recognising and Eliminating Bullying in the Workplace. A Guidebook published by the South Australian Ombudsman

  • A clear statement must be made to all staff, students, and visitors to the effect that everyone must be treated with respect and dignity and workplace bullying will not be tolerated.
  • This clear statement needs to be prominently displayed in the workplace, easily found on the institution’s webpages and provided to all new employees.
  • Senior leadership of the institution need to be seen to be showing leadership on this issue by their own behaviour and by appropriate responses to complaints.
  • Up to date, easy to follow, easy to find, comprehensive policies and procedures about what constitutes bullying and harassment and procedures for dealing with any incidents.
  • Training, particularly for managers, on how to deal quickly and effectively with any incidents reported and/or observed.
  • Pro-active monitoring of the workplace for any signs that bullying may be happening (there are known signs such as increased absenteeism, higher resignations from particular areas etc)
  • Ensuring there are avenues for staff to discuss unwelcome workplace behaviour e.g. an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) – with appropriately trained personnel.
  • Establishing an up to date network of trained, highly visible ‘contact people’ who are available to provide a ‘listening ear’ and offer guidance on appropriate steps that may be taken.
  • Any complaints need to be dealt with quickly and effectively to create confidence that the institution is serious about treating staff with dignity and respect and not tolerating bullying behaviour.
  • Staff who commit to an approach of not engaging in bullying behaviour, not condoning such behaviour in others and not remaining silent about such behaviour. (These are the platforms for the ‘It’s not OK‘ campaign against domestic violence)

Understanding the reason bullying takes place

As well as good practice for dealing with incidents of bullying once they have happened, it is critical to also understand why bullying may be occurring.

In the guidebook published by the South Australian Ombudsman, it is noted:

“A significant factor in the recent dramatic increase in the incidence of workplace bullying, in Australia and in other countries, was the reappearance of the workplace culture of a hundred years ago.

This culture based on long hours, casualisation, job insecurity, high stress and absolute control by management, tends to create a workplace climate in which bullying flourishes”

This report also suggests that solutions focused on the system rather than individuals are likely to be more fruitful.

Suggestions include:

  • Training for managers on how to manage people effectively without being “tough”, “in control”, “not tolerating dissent”, “constant pressure to increase productivity” (Chapter 9)
  • Establishing an ‘appeal’ system to enable staff “to appeal to a higher level of management against any decision they consider to be unjust or unfair” (p 40)
  • Specifying the management ‘style’ that the institution requires in job advertisements
  • Having good channels of communication and an open approach to sharing information and the basis for decisions
  • Reward systems that focus on bonuses, incentives can foster workplace bullying. Encouraging team work, co-operation can “remove much of the reason for bullying as well as achieve… a much more productive and efficient workplace” (p 41)

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