How to Avoid Workplace Bullying in Your Company with Good Ergonomics

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bullying in the workplace is a drain on an employer's resources because it reduces job performance and increases absenteeism and the risk of injury on your premises. Here's the official definition of workplace bullying in section 55A (1) of the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act1986:

‘Workplace bullying means any behaviour that is repeated, systematic and directed towards an employee or group of employees that a reasonable person, having regard to the circumstances, would expect to victimise, humiliate, undermine or threaten and which creates a risk to health and safety.'


Bullying may also be discrimination if it happens because of age, sex, race, pregnancy, disability, sexual orientation, religion or certain other reasons. Sexual harassment and racial hatred are also against the law. Employees who are not adequately protected from bullying in your company suffer from the distressing symptoms of stress and the costs to an employer may also include worker's compensation claims and civil action.

Identifying the Causes is the Key to prevention:

Management culture

The dominant culture of a workplace is usually a reflection of the values, opinions and beliefs of the management. When the culture is positive this encourages individuals to follow suit and promotes good working relationships between co-workers. 

On the other hand, if the dominant culture is negative, employees will unconsciously seek to please by adopting inappropriate behaviour and unhelpful attitudes to anyone who doesn't join in or who is perceived as different.

Organisational Factors

Bullying can also surface when employees are feeling dissatisfied with how the company is being managed, run or re-organised.  Factors may include any of the following:

  • Change in ownership
  • Changes such as a new manager or supervisor
  • Inadequate safety compliance
  • Inadequate supervision
  • Inadequate support or training
  • Inappropriate initiation practices
  • Introduction of new technology
  • Job insecurity
  • New rotas or new procedures
  • Poor people management
  • Restructuring or downsizing

Working Arrangements

Some working arrangements mean that individual employees or groups are separated from direct supervision and other workers. Bullying often occurs in secret and the actual physical layout of working areas, departments and offices can make it easy for bullying to continue undetected for long periods of time.  Moreover, employees in positions of authority may misuse their power to hand out unfair work scheduling or shift work.

Workplace health & ergonomics

Ergonomics is the study of efficiency as a way to promote high productivity.  This means ensuring that workplace conditions - psychological or physical – do not cause poor performance and high levels of absenteeism. It's a globally recognised practical science that emerged from rigorous military research which was later developed and refined by the designers of spacecraft.  Ergonomics has these solid goals:

  • Low absenteeism
  • Low injury rate
  • High job satisfaction
  • High staff retention
  • Maximum productivity

A consultant can ensure that employees don't behave badly owing to job stress, poor communications, poor working conditions or a lack of positive leadership. The method analyses every aspect of the working environment and its effect on your workforce, because if you aren't meeting all the needs of employees, they often show their dissatisfaction by choosing a scape-goat to bully. The whole focus is on maximising productivity through optimised work conditions.

Assessment and overhaul

A consultancy team can be brought in as a ‘neutral' third party to listen to what each and every employee has to say about the pros and cons of working in your company.  The same consultant will be involved in all aspects of the assessment and this ensures they can quickly identify the issues that are disrupting the smooth running of your business.
Ergonomics assessors are experts in communication and cognitive behavioural therapy, which is essential to ensure that sensitive issues can be effectively resolved.  Workstations will also be assessed for comfort, safety and efficiency. Modifications may be recommended to resolve any job-related stress or health problems arising out of uncomfortable chairs, badly positioned equipment or poorly designed office space.

Maximum productivity

An ergonomics consultancy can also help to organise flexible working hours, healthy shift-work schedules, Employee Health Assessment Days and provide training for safe working practices through a tailor-made Injury Prevention Programme.

Bullying rarely occurs when the leadership is well-organised and positive, management-employee relations are good and job satisfaction is high.  A complete ergonomics overhaul may be exactly what your workplace needs to achieve maximum productivity - in an extremely cost-effective way.  With the typical overhaul bringing in a return on investment of at least 100% - it would seem foolish not to avail yourself of this excellent service.

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