A recent report by Safe Work Australia indicated an increase in bullying in Australian workplaces.
The results also demonstrated the effects of bullying in relation to health outcomes. It also had effects on work outcomes and was significantly negatively associated with job satisfaction and work engagement and positively relation with intention to leave the workplace. The findings are consistent with the literature which has linked bullying and harassment o a range of psychological health and well being outcomes including general mental health outcomes, anxiety, depression and others.
The objective of the report was to present national surveillance data on the prevalence, antecedents and impacts of workplace bullying and harassment in Australia. Based on population based evidence, the rate of bullying in Australia workplaces in 2014/2015 was determined to be 9.6 per cent.
Most bullied Australian workers experienced bullying at least once a week to once a month, and if bullied, it usually lasted between one to six months, with 16.3 per cent reporting exposure greater than 2 years.Bullying was significantly related to a number of harmful health outcomes. Higher levels of emotional exhaustion, psychological distress and depression. Further, bullying was significantly associated with work outcomes: higher levels of workplace bullying were related to lower job satisfaction and engagement, and higher intention to leave.
Being bullied for greater lengths of time also had serious health and work outcomes.
For harassment, the impacts on health and work outcomes mirror those of bullying; the different forms of harassment were associated with psychological health (emotional exhaustion, psychological distress, depression) and work outcomes (intention to leave, reduced work engagement and job satisfaction). Being sworn at, being humiliated in front of others, and experiencing unfair treatment because of gender were the most hazardous in terms of their consequential effects.
For job design factors, job demands were significantly positively correlated with both bullying and harassment. As psychological demands and emotional demands increased, so too did levels of bullying and most forms of harassment experienced. These findings mirror the broader literature and the work environment hypothesis, which establishes that bullied workers are more likely to report higher job demands such as time pressure and workload (Hoel & Cooper, 2000), and is consistent with the theory that these work conditions may predispose bullying and harassment behaviours in the workplace.
The report also states that worker psychological health should be a core business value. Work should be a place that promotes good health, which may also reduce stigmatisation of mental health in the workplace.
Organisations should shift the focus from removing harmful risk to promotion a positive environment, one which imbeds ethical values and behavioural practices into the organisational culture.