About 20 per cent of employees perceive bullying in their workplace, according to results from an annual survey of Victoria’s public sector workers, the People Matter Survey. This rate has remained largely unchanged for more than 10 years.

The news on tackling bullying is not all bad. Some public sector organisations have managed to buck the trend and reduced perceptions of bullying in their organisations. The Victorian Public Sector Commission (VPSC) has obtained insights from five Victorian public sector organisations which have successfully reduced bullying rates over the last two to five years. These organisations represent a range of sectors, sizes and locations. Interviews and workshops were held with CEOs, human resource directors and staff in these organisations to better understand:

  • the reasons for high rates of employee perceptions of bullying in the past; and
  • the actions that led to a reduction in workplace bullying.

This report provides details on the journey taken by these organisations.

One thing is clear from these case studies: the journey has not been easy. It is also not over. A number of CEOs have acknowledged there is still work to be done to further improve workplace cultures. Others are aware of the possibility of bullying behaviours reappearing in their organisation and acknowledge this will need constant monitoring.

The case study organisations have had varied experiences of bullying which include:

  • bullying from a single individual, which had a wide impact across the organisation
  • bullying by senior leaders in the organisation
  • bullying behaviours occurring right across the organisation due to poor workplace cultures, or poor change management processes.

What is common across all these organisations is that their approaches haven’t solely been focused on tackling the specific issue of bullying. Leaders understand that bullying behaviours tend to stem from poor workplace cultures and that any strategy to reduce bullying has to be integrated with strategies to improve culture more broadly.

Key themes emerging from the case study organisations include the importance of:

  • strong leaders who set the tone of what is acceptable in the organisation
  • clear grievance processes
  • training for staff to be aware of bullying and to self-resolve issues where appropriate
  • encouraging respectful and positive workplace behaviours throughout the organisation
  • investing in leaders to effectively manage and build harmonious teams
  • clear and transparent communication, particularly during change
  • building a positive organisational culture

With close monitoring of bullying behaviours and a commitment to building better organisational cultures, the chances of these organisations mitigating or preventing bullying altogether is better than ever.

These stories may help your organisation turn the tide on bullying too.