Workplace Bullying: How Much Should Companies Pay for Tolerating Bullying Behavior?

Workplace Bullying: How Much Should Companies Pay for Tolerating Bullying Behavior?

Can a system of fines deter bullying behavior?

A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald stated that there’s a Australian government proposal in which “Workplace bullies could face fines up to $33,000” if  targets (they called them “victims,” but what the hey) are able to complain directly to the Fair Work Commission rather than state and health & safety authorities.  $33,000. Is that a lot or a little money? Is any amount of money enough to sooth the savage beast of pain and trauma targets suffer from workplace bullying situations?

Workplace Bullying: Does Fining Work?

And, does the money serve as a preventive measure? In some bullying cases, companies are already paying much more than that in lost productivity, turnover, litigation, and medical costs, and yet they still don’t have a cohesive strategy to stop the behavior. Will the thought of paying out of pocket deter bullying behaviors?

Can Companies Police Themselves?

And what about companies? Does this outside reporting mechanism absolve employers from what most of us see as their duty to protect? Research indicates that policies intended to prevent bullying are great, but only effective if they are enforced. It also indicates that many people who express bullying behaviors are not aware that they are causing pain. Other research shows quite clearly that some who are using bullying as a management or intimidation tool are quite aware that their behavior is hurtful. Whether the persons committing the bullying behavior are aware of their actions or not, their respective companies clearly do not have a handle on the problem.

Can this Work in the United States?

Here in the US, the EEOC (which handles harassment complaints lodged by those in “protected categories: age, race, gender, etc.) takes those complaints back to the companies and co-investigates the complaints before determining whether the complaint is legit or not. I don’t believe the EEOC has to power to either make or enforce financial consequences on perpetrators or their employers. But, if the Australian idea has a positive impact (in reducing bullying or intimidating those who behave like bullies to seek help to stop their behavior), what does that mean for the possibilities here and in Europe?

What’s Your Opinion?

I realize I have raised more questions than I have offered answers, but this is such thorny issue that I wanted to rant. I am curious about you, my readers. Where do you stand on financial consequences for bullying behavior?

To explore other issues about workplace conflict in your workplace, including setting up a program to discuss workplace bullying and abrasive behaviors, then contact me.

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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.