A supervisor may find out about bullying in a number of ways such as
- written reports
- verbal reports
- hearing verbal abuse or offensive language
- directly observing bullying type behaviour
Each situation that is reported or observed will usually be different. Therefore, to ensure a consistent approach, it is important to have an agreed procedure in workplace for dealing with reports. A supervisor can
- become familiar with the ‘No Bullying at Flinders’ statement
- seek assistance from the contacts named in the statement
- be familiar with the Staff Grievance Policy
Key principles to resolution
| Treat all matters seriously
||This encourages reporting and shows employees the Flinders’ commitment to its “No Bullying” policy
||Prompt intervention can assist in resolving reports as quickly and as fairly as possible
|Non-victimisation of person who reports
||It is important to ensure that anyone who raises an issue of bullying is not victimised for coming forward
|Support for both parties
||Once a report has been made, the person or persons involved should be reminded of the support systems available to them. The person or people against whom the allegations have been made should also be informed of opportunities for support.
|Communication of process
||All parties need to be informed of the relevant policies, the available resolution processes within those policies, who can help along the way, what they can expect will happen during and at the end of the process
||Those involved need to be assured that confidentiality will be maintained. This is important to prevent the matter from escalating
||Natural justice principles are designed to protect all parties involved.
Suggested approaches for successful resolution
These approaches can be used in combination or on their own, depending on the situation involved. They can also be used as a step by step approach to resolution.
The resolution approach taken by the supervisor should reflect the seriousness of the situation. It is important for the person who reported the situation to agree with the proposed approach or combination of approaches for resolution.
Assessing whether a direct approach will help resolve a report/incident of bullying is a positive first step.
Where serious allegations have been made, the direct approach is not appropriate. As an example, a report involving an escalation of bullying into violence or threats would not be suited to a direct approach.
The direct approach involves a clear and polite request for the behaviour to stop. This request can be made by the person affected, their supervisor or manager or another relevant person. (eg Head Equal Opportunity Unit, Personnel Consultant).
Anyone requested to act on behalf of the person affected should adopt a confidential, non-confrontational approach with a view to resolving the issue.
Examples of the direct approach:
- The person affected directly approaches the person responsible for the inappropriate behaviour to discuss the matter
- The person affected, with the support of a person they trust directly approaches the person responsible for the inappropriate behaviour to discuss the matter
- The person affected asks their supervisor (or another senior employee) to speak to the other person on their behalf
- A supervisor or manager directly observes bullying and intervenes, even though no report has been made.
If the direct approach succeeds and the offending behaviour stops, it may not be necessary to have a further step. In other circumstances, monitoring the situation for signs of recurrence may be appropriate.
Discussion involving an independent third party
The objective of this step in a process is to settle an issue with as little conflict and stress as possible.
The agreement of all parties to participate in this discussion is important for success and the independence of the third party needs to be recognised by all parties involved.
The discussion should focus on resolving the problem and agreeing on actions that will be undertaken to assist the resolution.
This action can be undertaken at two stages in the resolution process
- Where the direct approach has not resolved the issue
- Where an investigation has recommended discussion to assist resolution
There are some circumstances where it would not be appropriate to use this method. Such circumstances include situations involving allegations of occupational violence, or where there is a significant difference in power between the parties.
Where the behaviour does not cease after a direct approach or discussion, an investigation to establish whether or not the report is substantiated should be undertaken. Where a serious allegation has been made, an investigation should be the first step taken.
Prompt and careful investigation can lead to quick resolution and will demonstrate to employees that bullying is taken seriously.
Investigations should be conducted by an impartial and appropriately skilled person. Investigations and their outcomes should always be documented.
The parties affected should be kept informed and provided with all necessary documentation.
Actions to assist resolution
Complaint resolution is a very important part of dealing with bullying in the workplace. Supervisors should make sure that the people affected by the behaviour are satisfied their concerns have been dealt with appropriately.
The options for resolving a complaint of bullying will vary on a case-by-case basis according to seriousness and other circumstances. Some options for resolution are outlined below. A number of these may be used in combination.
- Gain commitment to cease the inappropriate behaviour
- Require an apology
- Run an awareness update
- Clarify behavioural expectations
- Review the ‘No Bullying’’ statement with all employees and supervisors
- Provide mediation between the parties provided both parties agree to the mediation and the mediator
- Provide training (eg communication skills, diversity awareness, inter-personal skills)
- Offer counselling and support to both parties and the work team if necessary
- Move the perpetrator away from the affected person
- Discipline the perpetrator