Addressing workplace bullying

26 November, 2019 by Deborah Jackson

Undoubtedly, the working environment of a liquor store can be highly stressful for everyone involved. While poor behaviour and aggression from customers in liquor stores is a significant problem (one which I covered in my September National Liquor News column), another serious issue for liquor store owners is workplace bullying among their employees.

Workplace bullying is frighteningly common among all Australian employees with Beyond Blue reporting that almost one in two Australians had experienced workplace bullying at some point during their lives. It is entirely possible that the actual number of Australians experiencing workplace bullying is even higher when taking into account incidents that are not reported. There is an enormous personal and economic cost associated with workplace bullying with estimates from the Productivity Commission finding that workplace bullying costs the Australian economy between $6 billion and $36 billion every year.

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Given its alarming frequency, it is crucial for all store owners to put in place proper systems to respond to any incidents of workplace bullying that may occur. Firstly, make sure that your business has a clearly defined, written policy in place regarding workplace bullying, communicating to all employees that any workplace bullying will not be tolerated. This policy should be clear as to exactly what kind of behaviour constitutes bullying so that all employees are aware of what is and isn’t acceptable. Workplace bullying can encompass a wide range of both physical and mental behaviours, with Safe Work Australia finding that the most prevalent forms of workplace bullying suffered are being sworn or yelled at and being humiliated in front of others.

Whenever any incidents of workplace bullying do arise, you should ensure that you respond to them as soon as practically possible. Failure to respond to repeated instances of workplace bullying in a timely manner may ultimately be deemed a breach of an employer’s responsibilities as part of their Work Health and Safety (WH&S) obligations.

While a business’ response to bullying is critical, what may often be overlooked is that there are a number of strategies you can employ to help prevent bullying from arising in the first place. As is the case with most HR-related matters, clear and consistent communication with your staff members is key, in addition to having written policies such as a Code of Conduct in place. At all available opportunities, you should seek to promote a positive and respectful workplace culture within your business, one in which all employees feel comfortable to report any forms of bullying without fear of negative consequences.

Regardless of your business’ size, all owners should ensure that they are properly equipped with comprehensive procedures to both prevent and respond to workplace bullying in all its forms. Retail Drinks is pleased to be able to offer its Members personalised assistance with a wide range of HR issues, including developing strategies on how to respond to bullying in the workplace. Any members wishing to use this service, should call our dedicated HR Hotline on 1300 451 213 today.

This article was written by Julie Ryan, CEO of Retail Drinks Australia, for the November issue of National Liquor News. You can read the full magazine online here.