09:45pm Tuesday 02 June 2020

Productivity push can leave workers at risk of bullying

New study shows psychological health of the workplace impacts productivityAccording to the Australian Productivity Commission, workplace bullying accounts for around 24 per cent of accepted mental stress claims in Australia.

The study found that nearly nine per cent of participants reported workplace bullying.

Director for UniSA’s Centre for Applied Psychological Research, Professor Maureen Dollard says the research clearly highlights the role of organisational factors as triggers for hazardous behaviours like bullying and harassment.

“Moving beyond individual vulnerabilities and perceptions, the research shows that the policies, practices and procedures that an organisation has for the protection of worker psychological health and safety, are very influential,” Prof Dollard says.

“When there is a lack of commitment and support from management and a priority for productivity over psychological health concerns, workers are at greater risk for bullying and harassment.”

The population based study conducted as part of the Australian Research Council funded Australian Workplace Barometer project, added together climate reports from people working in the same organisation, and then used these to predict self-reports of bullying and harassment.

The study canvassed 220 workers from 30 different organisations. “We found that bullying and harassment had a much greater impact on psychological distress than other factors such as workload, emotional demands, work hours and socioeconomic status,” Prof Dollard says.

“Importantly, bullying also had detrimental effects on worker engagement – so, left unchecked – bullying is likely to affect worker motivation and productivity outcomes for organisations.”

The findings support the conclusion that psychosocial safety climate is a lead indicator of workplace bullying, harassment, psychological health and worker engagement.

“The take-home message for organisations is to ensure they develop a safe psychosocial climate for workers as a key stress prevention strategy,” she says.

“Overall any investment in building a positive work culture will pay off both in worker safety and motivation and in terms of productivity.”

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