Monitoring your employee behaviour can be challenging at the best of times. In our current COVID-19 world, where your focus is on maintaining income and keeping your business afloat as your number one priority, monitoring employee behaviour may be pushed well down your priority list.

However, here’s the thing. Workplace bullying is very likely to rear its ugly head in our current environment. We might see the best of some people at times like this, but we also experience the worst of others. Are we likely to forget fights over toilet paper or that in Victoria applications for gun licenses surged during this crisis any time soon?

Under normal circumstances, research indicates organisational change creates a fertile environment for workplace bullying.

There are a number of reasons for this including:

  • management adopting more autocratic processes to implement the change amongst their employees;
  • increased levels of strain can result in vulnerable targets who offer little resistance to negative behaviours and bullying;
  • organisational change can also fuel hostility and competitiveness within an organisation resulting in malicious techniques to eliminate or impede competitors in a survival of the fittest approach.

All three factors, autocratic approaches, increased strain and survival of the fittest are currently present in our workplaces as people stress over whether their organisations or their jobs will continue to exist in the short to medium term. This flows on to concerns over individuals being able to meet the basic needs of providing their families and themselves with basic necessities (ie. food and shelter). It suggests an environment ripe for the occurrence of workplace bullying.

While all this is going on, your legal obligations haven’t changed. Health and safety legislation continues to apply. You still need to provide both a physically and mentally safe workplace for your employees. Workcover claims for workplace injuries can still be lodged. It’s money that is better spent on helping your business to rebuild and recover, than on Workcover premiums.

How do you keep ahead of the bullying claims?

Our workplaces are in a situation where many are forced to operate our businesses differently, working in isolation remotely away from an office based environment. In this environment, our systems to prevent bullying need to be tweaked to match this current environment.

Our top three recommendations for you to keep ahead of bullying claims during the COVID-19 pandemic are:

  1. Ensure your employees understand their expected behaviours and conduct while working remotely. For example, communication by email, text or messaging can be easily misconstrued leading to claims of bullying. Ensure their behavioural expectations identify what employees should do when they perceive there is a problem in this situation to resolve it as quickly as possible, preventing escalation.
  2. Ensure you have multiple communication options to provide employees with opportunities to raise issues, have conversations and minimise potential conflict. Don’t rely solely on email or text messaging. Ensure regularly planned phone or video conferencing meetings are held providing employees with opportunities to raise problems, address concerns and keep employees up to date of what is occurring in your organisation.
  3. Where there is an issue for an employee who can’t address a behavioural issue for some reasons (eg. it might be their line supervisor) ensure there is an alternative person in the business they can contact. Examples might be your HR or health and safety representative. If they are also working remotely, ensure they are contactable by employees by more than just email with direct contact numbers or redirected phones. This allows them to have an information conversation and get advice on their options in these situations.

Staying ahead and preventing bullying claims will save you valuable time and money.

Can you afford not to get ahead of this right now?

Do you need help dealing with a potential workplace bullying issue?

Contact us today for a confidential discussion on how we can help you.