It’s Here: Workplace Bullying is now Real and Serious

It’s Here: Workplace Bullying is now Real and Serious

A recent article in Dateline Australia announced new standards in workplace bullying policy for which workplaces in Australia will be held accountable: “On April 24, 2013 WorkSafeBC announced that its Board of Directors has approved three new occupational health and safety workplace bullying and harassment policies.”

What Does That Mean?

Well, I hope it means that changes will also be made here in the US so that workplace bullying is acknowledged as the serious problem it is, and that organizations are responsible to dealing with the behavior and its consequences.

Workplace Bullying Policy: More Details

Though this definition is by no means perfect, and still up for debate, it is still a step in the right direction: “Under the new policies, bullying and harassment include any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards a worker that the person knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated.”

According to WorkSafe BC, Employers must

  1. Develop a policy statement with respect to workplace bullying and harassment not being acceptable or tolerated;

  2. Take steps to prevent or minimize workplace bullying and harassment;

  3. Develop and implement procedures for workers to report incidents or complaints of workplace bullying and harassment;

  4. Develop and implement procedures for how the employer will address incidents or complaints of workplace bullying and harassment;

  5. Inform workers of the policy statement in (a) and the steps taken in (b);

  6. Train supervisors and workers on recognizing the potential for bullying and harassment, responding to bullying and harassment, and procedures for reporting and how the employer will deal with complaints of bullying and harassment;

  7. Annually review the above steps;

  8. Not engage in bullying and harassment of workers and supervisors, and

  9. Apply and comply with the employer’s policies and procedures on bullying and harassment.

A Good Start

While these requirements mirror those of sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination in the workplace guidelines, it’s a start in the right direction.

To continue moving forward, I recommend several guidelines. First, acknowledgement of the issue is essential. Second, set regulations and create structure, Third, really understand the issues and then apply the regulations in a fair manner.

For more solutions and tips on how to deal with workplace conflict and bullying behaviors, exclusive content, and detailed reports, sign up for my free newsletter.

I’ve been a strategic consultant on workplace conflict to executives worldwide for more than 20 years. My work brings individualized solutions to your teams’ lost productivity, loss of key personnel, low morale, and the high costs resulting from bullying, abrasive behaviors and interpersonal workplace conflicts.

I’m Kathleen Bartle, Conflict Consultant.


  • It’s useless unless there is provision to stop those who physically refuse to be stopped by less than a law enforcement officer.

  • It’s useless until there is a provision against those who refused to be stopped by lesss than a law enforcement officer

  • Kellie

    Hi Kathleen

    As someone who lives and works in B.C. I can tell you that sadly; too many employees are attempting to use any kind of workplace conflict or performance related issues as WorkSafe BC claims. Many folks who are truly being bullied or harassed are now caught up in this huge landslide of complaints that have to be reviewed and as soon as an employee states the mental distress is related to the workplace, the other insurance carriers (whether they be third party or self-insured employer programs) are turning them away and the employee has no income.

    I would agree that the intention is great and definitely a step in the right direction but it is not working out well on many fronts. There is also a requirement for a psychiatrist or psychologist to deem the employee as having a mental disorder and in many cases, depending on the place an employee resides, there are waits of up to 7 or 8 months.

    Last, but not least; WorkSafe BC is not enforcing any of the policies because they are too overwhelmed with the influx of complaints and even if there were an employer that did not comply, the likelihood of any action from WorkSafe BC is extremely slim. Bill 168 has been out in Ontario since 2010 (it is similar in that it includes bullying and harassment as well as domestic violence) and recently there was a fine levied against an employer for non-compliance and the fine was $200.00. When you are an employer with a payroll of over 3 million, do you really think a $200.00 fine serves as a deterrent?

    I really want to promote healthy workplaces, and I work hard to spread that message to employers through the work that I do – but I find this new bill to be severely lacking and actually hampering victims in their plight.
    Having said all of this – I am grateful for folks like you that will hopefully educate employers (and employees) on how to build and maintain healthy, respectful workplaces. Thank you for your contribution to that end.

  • Hi Kellie,
    Thanks for your comments and for some relevant info on laws/policies and responses. And you’re absolutely right that a law or policy does not necessarily make improvements and that some will take advantage of these laws and policies. And these same policies force victims to take drastic action to be safe and that action has little or no protection or compensation.

    Today I’m working with a Fortune 500 company that is being pro-active in responding to complaints of workplace abrasive and bullying behavior. They want a safe and healthy workplace and are willing to help the abrasive person understand what needs to change. If the change can’t happen then that person will have to move on.

    This is what we really want-companies committed to safe and healthy workplaces so that we don’t need policies or laws to make companies respond appropriately.

  • kellie

    Absolutely agree Kathleen. I did a workshop this past week with a client that, like yours, wants to be pro-active. They have a great policy, they involved their employees when they did the risk assessment, and they did the workshop so employees could have some open discussion. Since I’m normally called to investigate complaints of bullying or harassment, this was definitely a nice change. I have a question for you – do you see bullying as intentional? I ask since you mentioned helping the abrasive person in understanding what needs to change.