Bullying and Harassment; is it an issue in Australia?

As HR peeps we should all know what bullying and harassment is, and given that we regularly present to our clients on what it is and what to do; is it still a major concern for organisations?

Unfortunately, Yes.

According to a survey by CareerOne.com.au:
• 74% Australian workers say they have been bullied at work
• Of those bullied, 65 per cent said they were intimidated, threatened and verbally abused by either a colleague or manager.
• 57 per cent reported that they currently work with someone they considered to be a bully
• Nearly one third claim to have been sexually harassed
• 74 per cent of sexual harassment cases went unreported, often because workers feared the impact it would have on their job.

sexual harassment

Unbelievable right? Who knew so many people were facing bullies everyday at work. When we think about bullies we often think about physical harm, but verbal abuse is just as serious.

A few years ago Redinald David Mowat became the first person in Victoria to be convicted of a bullying charge that did not involve physical violence. He worked as a radio announcer of Ballarat station 3BA until he was sacked after allegations of attacks on up to six people.

In November 2002, Mowat allegedly said to a co-worker: “Fair dinkum, you’re f—in’ useless . . . you’re just f—in’ me around.” He then said: “I will take you down the back and f—in’ smash you, I will.”
He also slapped and grabbed co-workers and plead guilty to one count of willfully placing at risk the health of persons in the workplace through physical abuse. Read the whole article.

More recently, a woman was awarded $466,000 in damages after being sexually harassed and then terminated for phoney reasons.

You can view the case yourself, but here are some of the allegations:

In early April 2005, Mr A Hickinbotham commented to her in the workplace, in the presence of others, that she had “two good assets” whilst staring at her breasts.

In May 2005, the third respondent Mark Flynn, another sales consultant employed by ESA, sent her three unsolicited emails and a number of SMS text messages inviting her to have a sexual relationship, which humiliated and shocked her. Ms Poniatowska reported that conduct to her supervisor Ms Sharrad. No action was taken and Ms Sharrad commented to her “what do you expect with a face like yours?”

In June 2005, Mr Lotito sent Ms Poniatowska a coarse MMS picture message on her mobile telephone depicting a woman giving a man oral sex and a text message “U have 2 b better” and in June or July 2005, Mr Lotito then pestered her on a number of occasions by telephone to have sex with her. She did not formally complain to her employer about that, but mentioned it to another consultant who did report it. Ms Poniatowska says the investigation of that matter was unsatisfactory.

On 29 August 2005, Ms Sharrad asked Ms Poniatowska to enter into a sexual relationship with a man from another building company, so that the Hickinbotham Group could secure a land deal with that company.

On 30 September 2005, Mr M Hickinbotham kissed her “strongly on the mouth” whilst on the dance floor at a function being conducted by her employer.

It’s time we got serious about this in Australia and started walking the walk, instead of just talking the talk in our presentations every two years. It’s going to be a top priority for me this year.

How will you ensure your workers are free from bullying and harassment?

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Filed under Diversity/Bullying and Harassment

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