You have an employee who has alleged bullying towards them or you believe might be bullied. If you have one, you have advised them they could contact your Employee Assistance Program (EAP), should they need to. You have met your obligations and managed your risk; but have you really?
I have seen a number of companies use this approach. It’s a passive support approach, but it comes with an inherent risk. EAP services are often confidential in nature when approached by an employee. As a result, your risk management is based on assumption and your employee may be steam rolling towards a mental health, bullying related injury and Workcover claim. All while you are in the dark.
Thirty years of research has linked workplace bullying to both mental health and physical injury and illnesses. If we focus on the more serious end of workplace bullying injury, a key study of more than 1800 employees compared those who had been bullied against those who had not. It found targeted employees were twice as likely to be considering suicide compared to those who had not been bullied. In another meta analysis of 29 other research articles, 57% of identified respondents showed post traumatic stress disorder like symptoms after being targeted.
If bullying was a physical injury with that level of risk, we wouldn’t hesitate to more actively push for that employee to seek out appropriate medical advice. A passive approach would not be accepted as standard practice.
Knowing the level of injury risk from bullying, our workplaces need to adopt a more proactive approach to support for employees who have been targeted with (alleged or proven) bullying type behaviours. This then allows that risk of injury and Workcover claims to be managed, or, if caught early enough prevented.
For employers, active support involves working with a support provider with the knowledge and experience to identify the signs of bullying injury through an assessment. That support provider needs to provide you with specific recommendations and a planned approach to mitigate the risk.
For a number of reasons, including the bullied employees fear and stigmatisation, you need to be prepared to roll with that employees resistance to support where it exists. It must not be a once off approach to encourage that employee to engage support.
Trust is vital. It has often been lost in a workplace where an employee believes they have been bullied in. A key part of the process is ensuring that employee can meet the support person who will work with them before they commit to the support. It starts a process to re-empower the target employee.
Accepting as the employer that you don’t need to know everything, but you do need to be part of the plan development and what it involves to keeps your employee safe. To help the employee engage and rebuild trust in you as their employer some information may need to be private and confidential. However, it is vital for you as their employer to be part of the plan development that keeps them safe and helps them to recover. This ensures the plan is realistic and achievable.
The earlier you act, the better the outcome for both you and your employee in warding off injury and associated Workcover claims.
Is it time you changed your approach and actively managed your workplace bullying injury risk?
Would you like to learn more about our approach to workplace bullying support?
Click here to learn about our Workplace Bullying Support Program