Some years ago, I had a manager who said to me “You know, some of the employees around here are afraid of me”; and then she laughed. She had a management style that could be intimidating and aggressive. She had her own rules and those of the organisation didn’t apply to her. Looking back, I am surprised there weren’t more claims of bullying against her, but then only the bravest souls would have challenged her. Her power was too absolute.

The 2018 Fair Work Commission reports on applications for orders to stop bullying at work show that 74% of those accused of alleged bullying are either direct managers (49%) or a group of managers (25%).

Other research indicates that managers and supervisors are also the alleged bully in a disproportionate number of situations. The Australian Barometer Report released in 2016 reported 62% of bullying cases featured a direct supervisor as the accused. Beyondblue’s Workplace Bullying in Australia report indicated that alleged bullies were more likely senior staff members at a lower, but still significant rate, of 46.5%. Different industries will have higher or lower rates, depending on a range of factors.

Why are business managers more often the accused?

Let’s be honest, managers can, at times, end up being accused as bullies because they can be an easy target. Performance management discussions can result in bullying claims because for some employees it is easier to blame someone else than admit there are areas of their work that require improvement and development.

However, it is never so simple to pass of the disenfranchised of performance management to be the only reason for managers to be the bullying accused. Poorly attempted or completed performance management leaves managers open to accusations of bullying.

Therefore, our first point to highlight is knowledge and skill. If managers aren’t educated in how to complete their jobs effectively and how to follow a businesses processes fairly and consistently, then the risk of bullying claims increases.

Another key factor where a manager becomes the accused in bullying claims is management or leadership style. Managers who are closed-minded, directive, lack listening and consultation skills, fail to promote growth and development are more likely to become the target of bullying accusations.

When it comes to bullying, you need to ensure that your managers are educated in what is, and what is not, bullying type behaviours. If they don’t have the knowledge, then they can’t manage or prevent bullying claims with confidence.

If your managers are educated in what bullying is, and is not, it also provides them with a basis for a self check. Where they have the self awareness (because not all managers do) they can ask themselves the question, could my behaviours be considered to be bullying in nature and what do I have to do to change that?

It starts with good education and support for your managers.

Working Well Together provide your business education and support to prevent workplace bullying and create mentally healthy workplaces.

Contact us today for a free, confidential discussion.