I recently had a look at the Victorian Worksafe Injury Hotspots information on their website and wasn’t surprised to see work-related stress, bullying and work-related violence in the top four hazards for office workers.


There is now plenty of evidence about the physical and psychological harm that long term exposure to stress and hostile environments has on humans.

Has your organisation done all they can to reduce these issues or think that there is nothing that can be done?

Strategies to reduce this workplace risk

1. Develop and implement appropriate policies and procedures

Too often policies and procedures are developed as a compliance effort and not really evaluated for effectiveness, communicated to staff and used. When people don’t know what to do there is a tendency to do nothing.

Discrimination, intolerance and bullying behaviour are like weeds that will take a hold of the workplace culture if better practice (the fruit of the workplace) if policies and procedures are neglected.

Our workplace consulting division can help you to do a desk audit of your policies and procedures related to reducing workplace conflict, discrimination and abuse.

2. Encourage a positive workplace culture

Culture is the sum total of how people behave. No matter how good your policies and procedures are if they are ignored and inappropriate behaviour is allowed to continue your workplace will be in trouble.

When a culture of fear and entitlement develops reporting bullying and harassment becomes very difficult for the victims. In some workplaces the process is to report to your manager who may be the bully or HR who are aligned and colluding with bullies.

If you have a high staff turnover that can be an indicator of culture problems.

Our workplace consulting division can provide confidential research services to interview a sampling of staff and provide a report of what they really think about your workplace culture without fear of reprisals.

3. Provide access to support services

The traditional approach to employee assistance programs (EAP’s) is to provide individual counselling for staff members and depending on the situation this can be helpful. In others it can be another example of abuse of the victim.

  • If the person who is being bullied is sent for counselling it appears that they are the one who is at fault.
  • If the bully is sent for counselling they will generally deny their behaviour and no change in their attitudes occur.

Mediation Centre offers workplace mediation services to help bring people who are in conflict together to discuss their issues and agree on how they will move forward.

4. Ensure that everyone understands what bullying and harassment is

It is important that policies and procedures designed to prevent work-related stress, bullying and work-related violence are part of your induction process to help prevent inappropriate behaviours being imported into your workplace.

Practical training and workshops are also important for existing staff, ideally containing case studies from your own or similar workplaces to help turn the intangible concepts of favouritism, bullying, prejudice, racism, sexism, intolerance into an understanding of how the staff members behaviour may be impacting others. People’s beliefs, values and attitudes are often invisible to them and many of the participants in workshops are surprised to realise that their behaviour may be causing problems for others and your workplace.

Mediation Centre offers customised and bespoke workshops in a variety of formats to help staff members to understand the concepts of bullying and harassment and the underlying behavours that contribute to this workplace hazard.

5. Understand and deal with workplace stress

If the workplace machinery was being subjected to stress that it was not designed to cope with staff would be expected to report it and yet when unacceptable levels of stress is being applied to your human resources the unspoken (and sometimes spoken) message from management may be to “suck it up”.

While humans can cope with high levels of stress for short periods of time without harm we now know that exposure to high stress over a long period of time is highly detrimental to health and contributes to a number of chronic health conditions.

Some of the known stressors for employees are:

  • unreasonable work demands
  • low control over their activities (micro management and similar management styles can cause this)
  • poor support (lack of good quality management training and poorly designed¬† / broken systems and processes can cause this along with deliberate efforts to undermine staff as a result of bullying)
  • organisational culture is the catch all phrase for workplace norms and behavours that cause stress to employees

Contact Us for a confidential discussion about the issues you are experiencing in your workplace that you believe may be related to issues with your workplace culture, policies and procedures or management. We may be able to help and we certainly will be able to help clarify the issue.