Employee engagement and company culture are two buzzwords that have dominated the thoughts of human resources experts over the last few years. Often, these terms are tied to business benefits ranging from turnover rates to productivity.

However, there's another important reason to be concerned with company culture: Workplace bullying. 

Company culture drives behaviour 

What is company culture? On a general level, it's the values and practices that characterise an organisation and shape the behaviour of its staff. It might be driven by the organisation's vision and purpose, while the language, systems, tools, resources and operational processes all help to shape its development. 

Company culture is important because it can influence coworker relationships, productivity and performance. If they're more aware of and invested in the company's mission, for instance, they might put more effort into "all hands on deck" situations. At the same time, the organisation's values could affect hiring decisions. 

Because of this, company culture can be a major factor in whether workplace bullying becomes an issue. Culture informs the way colleagues interact with each other and carry out their responsibilities, so it can either encourage bullying or create an environment where it's not tolerated.

Putting an end to workplace bullying 

It's been over a year since Australia strengthened its anti-bullying legislation with procedures for dealing with complaints. However, reports indicate that the country still has a persistent problem with workplace bullying.

For example, the ACT Public Service State of the Service Report*, which was released in October, revealed that between 10 and 20 per cent of respondents had been harassed during the previous 12 months, while 20 to 30 per cent said they saw someone being bullied. 

In addition to informing employees about their rights when it comes to harassment in the workplace and addressing bullying during staff inductions, organisations should evaluate whether their company culture is doing enough to eliminate this behaviour. 

This starts with a strong commitment not to tolerate such behaviour. Furthermore, enterprises should ensure their values, beliefs and vision are consistently promoted and a cornerstone of the workplace. A three-step approach is most effective:

  1. Define your values 
  2. Communicate these positions to employees 
  3. Regularly promote and consistently enforce them 

For example, you could state or display your core values at the start of each staff meeting, highlight cases of staff members living out these attributes, implement tools to facilitate the right kind of coworker dynamics and have clear disciplinary measures in place for deviation. 

A strong induction program can help you take a more proactive approach to shaping your culture and preventing bullying. WorkPro offers a free Workplace Bullying ebook to help you address this important topic.

*ACT Government, "ACT Public Service State of the Service Report 2014".

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