A court recently awarded $1 million to a NSW woman who was bullied in the workplace. That’s the largest amount we’ve ever heard of for workplace bullying. The Courts are getting serious!
It just goes to prove how serious the courts are getting about bullying and harassment in the workplace. If this is anything to go by, we expect to see more and more cases like this in the near future.
When it comes to managing employees, this is where things can get really tricky. There are a couple of situations which can occur when it comes to bullying and mental health:
- The person does not have any mental health problem, but the bullying causes them to become unwell.
- The person has an underlying mental health problem that they may not even know about, which becomes exacerbated when faced with a bullying situation.
- The person has a diagnosed mental health problem, which is made worse by bullying.
The other thing to consider as a manager though, is that a person in one of the last two groups (and that’s a good percentage of people) is more likely to feel bullied and harassed in general.
Generally speaking, people with mental health problems can have a heightened sensitivity to the interpersonal dynamics at play in a workplace (or any other social environment for that matter). We sometimes say they have a good ‘bullshit detector’. They are often more aware of the subtle forms of bullying and harassment that often fly under the radar, or that other people might not notice or have become accustomed to.
On the plus side, this means they can call out the passive-aggressive bullies who are subtly creating nasty working environments for everyone. As managers, you want someone to flag those issues before they get worse, so you can address it. But on the down side, this can mean that sometimes that person may be more likely to feel bullied even when that is not what’s happening.
Clearly, that’s not what happened in this case, but it seems to be a common question that arises in many of our courses.
So what can you do as a manager to protect all your staff, and your organisation? Here are a couple of things:
- Set very clear expectations and standards for all employees, but especially for managers as to what is appropriate behaviour.
- Train your managers in management! – skills like performance management, delivering feedback, supervision or mentoring skills, how to have difficult conversations, and managing workplace mental health, to name a few.
- Nurture a mentally healthy culture, a workplace where people are happy to be.
- Build good relationships with your staff. You want them to feel comfortable to talk to you early if an issue such as this arises, so you can step in and act quickly before it gets out of hand.
- Build the resilience and emotional stamina of your staff. Equip them with tools to stay strong, so that in the case a bully does appear, they are better able to cope, and take appropriate action.
There’s one last thing I want to mention in regards to this article and that is, the reference to a psychological condition as a ‘permanent disability’. There is a huge body of evidence in mental health that shows it does not have to be a permanent illness. It can be but it doesn’t have to be. The majority of people can and do recover, given the right support. I certainly hope the lady in this article does find the right help for her, although is seems than in her case, it’s going to be a tough road ahead.
Btw, we upskill managers on what to do and how to do it, and more, at our Workplace Mental Health Masterclass for Leaders course. Check it out and see if it’s for you
Read the original article here: http://finance.nine.com.au/2016/10/25/09/29/nsw-worker-wins-1-million-for-workplace-bullying