Workplace bullying book tries new psychology approach Reply

A new book on workplace bullying deserves close attention. Workplace Bullying by Joseph Catanzariti and Keryl Egan is a refreshing publication from LexisNexis Australia for several reasons. It balances information about the prevention of workplace bullying, the cultural and psychological underpinnings of workplace bullying, and the potential processes through the Fair Work Commission to seek resolution.  Most of the chapters are easy to read and the book is continuously interesting.  One downside is it seems expensive at A$110. More…

New workplace bullying report raises awareness in UK 1

imageRecently workplace bullying gained increased attention in the United Kingdom due to media report about a discussion paper released by Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas).

The report called “Seeking better solutions: tackling bullying and ill-treatment in Britain’s workplaces” is a very good summary of thinking on workplace bullying that acknowledges the Australian experience but seems to indicate that Britain remains in the early stages of tacking the workplace bullying situation after a series of false starts on the issue.

SafetyAtWorkBlog posed some questions about this paper to Dr Shainaz Firfiray, Assistant Professor of Organisation & HRM at Warwick Business School and an expert on social identity, work-life balance and ethics.  Her responses are below but before that it is useful to note the key messages of the discussion paper: More…

Stirring the OHS pot 9

I was honoured to speak recently at the monthly meeting of the Central Safety Group.  As the meeting occurred during Safe Work Australia Month it seemed appropriate to stir debate about the nature of occupational health and safety (OHS) and how it applied.

Here is a selection of points that I intended to make. Discussion developed in a manner that allowed for many of these to be only touched upon but that was the intention of the presentation – to encourage OHS professionals to talk about OHS rather than about specific hazards. More…

10 (better) questions organisations should be asking about workplace bullying 2

On 14 July 2015, Russell Kennedy lawyers published an article “10 better questions organisations should be asking about workplace bullying”. The article is a great example of the type of advice about workplace bullying that lawyers provide to companies.  It is good advice but is limited by the legal process.

Here are my alternate, or complementary, 10 questions for an organisation to ask about workplace bullying, in no particular order: More…

The exploitation of happiness 4

As the Australian Government analyses the productivity of the workplace it is vital that that analysis reflects the modern workplace and management practice. At the moment Australian workplaces are awash with training programs focusing on resilience and happiness, implying that each individual can change and improve a workplace culture but there has always been an undercurrent of manipulation to these courses and seminars.  A new book by William Davies provides a fresh perspective that, rightly, questions the motives behind this modern trend and provides an important historical context. (For those who can’t purchase the book but want to know more, look at this series of articles)

Davies’s book,  “The Happiness Industry – How the Government and Big Business Sold Us well-Being”“, is a big picture look at the economics and politics of happiness but has direct relevance to the workplace and occupational health and safety (OHS) as well-being and mental health has become increasingly influential in managing workers and their safety. Davies writes that since the 1990s: More…

Integrated approach to OHS and wellbeing to be promoted in Australia 1

Cover from VWA_INTEGRATED APPROACH GUIDELINES_D3-2Later this month, the Victorian WorkCover Authority (VWA) will be releasing a document entitled “Integrated approaches to worker health, safety and well-being” (pictured right, but not yet available online).  It is intended to generate discussion on how to improve workplace safety performance by breaking down the walls of various disciplines, production processes, consultative silos and institutional or organisational biases.  This document builds on the overseas experience of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH – Total Worker Health program), the World Health Organisation (WHO – Healthy Workplace Framework) and others to provide an Australian context.

Those who are experienced in risk management principles may see little new in this approach and the publication’s success is likely to depend on how VWA explains the initiative and how its stakeholders, Victorian businesses of all sizes, accept the concept and believe it can work in their own workplaces.


The release of a publication advocating Integration implies that an unintegrated approach to safety management has been an impediment to change. This may be a surprise to risk managers and those who have been consulting broadly on OHS in their workplaces and those companies who have integrated systems managers with responsibility for Quality, OHS and Environment. More…

Dangerous personalities making work unsafe – really? 16

Pages from dangerous-personalities-making-work-unsafe-1Australian recruiting firm, Sacs Consulting, has released the findings of a survey entitled “Dangerous Personalities making work unsafe“.  Such surveys are predominantly marketing exercises and usually, as in this case, there is a limited amount of data available but the results are often broadly distributed and add to the discussion about workplace safety.

The headline itself is a red flag to occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals who are old enough to remember the debate about “blaming the worker” for OHS breaches, injuries and illnesses.  Most safety managers and corporate safety programs are applying a “no blame” philosophy to combat the worker focus but the reality is that workers are still being blamed and being dismissed for safety breaches.  The Sacs Consulting survey confirms the growing worker focus by looking at the personal rather than the organisational.

The Sacs study found:

“…that some people still ignore OHS rules and act unsafely in the workplace, whereas others value their own safety and that of their colleagues so actively that they try to improve the safety of their workplace. Using personality and values testing, the study was able to predict whether an individual is more or less
likely to be safe at work.” (page 1) More…

Investing in new and young workers can be tough but rewarding 1

Commenting on the Australian Government’s new employment services model, Anglicare provided a research paper, Beyond Supply and Demand, that referenced occupational health and safety (OHS) and so caught our attention.  The report said:

“…job seekers may experience issues with the importance of getting to work on time, keeping the employer informed if they are unable to attend work, and the following of basic policies and procedures, such as those around occupational health and safety (Cortis et al., 2013). The research also identified that this lack of workplace knowledge leads to  assumptions that recruits were lacking in work ethic or disinterested in the work.” (page 6)

The report goes on to discuss the social services context primarily but the OHS mention deserved following up.  The research by Natasha Cortis, Jane Bullen, and Myra Hamilton states that employers often misunderstand new job recruits and although OHS is specifically referenced only in the mention of reporting accidents, the rest of the quote below should be noted by employers and safety professionals when preparing OHS communications to new workers. More…

Analysis needed on new workplace bullying data 2

In December 2013 I wrote:

“The Age is correct in saying that claims of workplace bullying are “set to soar”. This has been predicted for some time, even privately by members of the Fair Work Commission, but the number of claims does not always indicate the level of a problem.” (link added)

Recently the Fair Work Commission (FWC) released its first quarterly report into anti-bullying  applications and the statistics indicate that there is no soaring of claims.  Sadly the report does not provide analysis only facts. More…

Media coverage on workplace bullying needs more depth and analysis 2

The Australian media has given workplace bullying the front page, probably because it is a slow news period and there have been no major disasters this Christmas period. However the coverage is of the new rules and opportunities for assistance offered by changes to the Fair Work Act that commence on 1 January 2014, rather than about prevention.

Most of the comments from the business groups in the article by The Age newspaper will be familiar from the last few months. Generally they object to what they see as red tape and increased regulation. Some also believe that workplace bullying should be handled through human resources rather than as an occupational health and safety (OHS) matter.

Red tape and unnecessary bureaucracy is a legitimate concern but one that, in large part, the business sector has allowed to happen. As discussed previously, much of the red tape originates from the risk management strategy of business where, when an issue or hazard cannot be eliminated or it is too difficult to try, insurance or liability protection is obtained. As others have said, too often the risk management of safety is corrupted to become risk management of legal issues. More…