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  • Writer's pictureEdwin and George

Stamping out Workplace Bullying and Harassment

Good Governance Pays for Itself

The Cost of Ignoring Employee Grievances and Stamping out Bullying and Harassment.

We have written previously about the importance of a strong office culture for great engagement and productivity.

We have also highlighted a major issue in bullying and harassment in the workplace - “the enablers” aka poor leaders who don’t act.

The number of people leaving the workplace due to bullying or sexual harassment in the workplace is rising. A study by University of Wollongong in 2016 found that half of all Australian employees will experience workplace bullying during their careers. Of those bullied, 40 per cent of people experienced workplace bullying early in their career and between 5 and 7 per cent had been bullied in the previous six months.

What is worse is that there are organsiations not taking complaints seriously. Whether this is due to a toxic culture or poor governance – if not fixed it can destroy your organisation from the inside and out.

Bullying behaviour includes (according to an AICD article) engaging in aggressive conduct, making humiliating comments, spreading malicious rumours and exclusion from work-related events, among other conduct.

The employee has left – not my problem.

Incorrect. If you have an employee that complains about workplace bullying or harassment and leaves your organisation the problem is not solved.

Failing to act on a complaint (especially when documented) must always be followed up with. A great solution to this is to always follow up with a thorough Exit Interview.

The Costs

Huge. The costs of losing an employee are well-known. They are astronomical and numerous in time and resources:

  • Loss of the specialist knowledge of the departed employee and the prior investment in training and developing that person (their new employer will enjoy this benefit)

  • Advertising and headhunting costs

  • Time spent by team members covering any gap before the replacement starts

  • Time spent by management on interviewing new candidates

  • Time spent in the HR administration of the departure of the staff member and the start of the replacement

  • The costs and time spent training and inducting the new employee

  • Legal fees

  • Termination payouts

  • Loss of relationships with customers and stakeholders which have to be rebuilt

In a case study which is typical for many clients of one workplace resolution organisation, the costs of misconduct for one employee were $209,800 – $337,800, while the cost of simple steps to minimise the risks of misconduct across the organisation was only $12,500.


The culture of an organisation and the way it deals with employee misconduct can significantly affect its brand and reputation. Being seen as an employer that values its staff means it is easier to attract and recruit good staff, and it also makes the company more attractive to its customers. No one wants to save their money at a bank which is seen to allow fraud, or buy goods from a retailer that leaves unchecked its employees’ breaches of safety and quality standards. For organisations such as HR and recruitment organisations – it is imperative that we have the right policies in place.

Bad Managers

One major reason employees are leaving is due to management not listening or acting on complaints of harassment.

If your employees report any cases of bullying or sexual harassment in the workplace it is important that you take the appropriate steps to act.

Good governance pays for itself - Tips to deal with harassment and bullying complaints.

The Australian Institute of Company directors published a great article in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein scandal of what not to do when there are serious accusations of harassment against a senior organisational figure.

These include:

· Avoid a culture of complicity

· Swift and effective investigations, even if the matter is ‘settled’

· Gender diversity’s role

· Listen: using policies which empower staff to speak

· No organisation is immune

There’s a great video here on corporate culture:

Employers must do a better job of responding to sexual harassment complaints than the employers in the above examples. To begin with, have an effective anti-harassment policy and enforce it. At a minimum, a policy should state:

  • That the company will not tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace; define “sexual harassment” clearly and succinctly; provide examples (e.g., touching, suggestive jokes or comments, flirtatious gifts, obscene gestures, blocking free movement, leering, graphic photos or cartoons, questions about personal life);

  • That managers at all levels are responsible for preventing harassment and must immediately report complaints or conduct by anyone (coworker, supervisor, or nonemployee) that may be harassment, even if it looked welcomed;

  • A procedure outlining multiple ways for employees to report harassment, e.g., a manager, a human resources rep, or a tip line;

  • That all reports will be investigated;

  • That there will be no retaliation for reports of harassment.

Merely having a policy is not enough, though — it must be enforced. Treat all complaints seriously and fully investigate, using an impartial investigator.

Above all do nothing at your peril.

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