In the digital world that we live in, social media platforms have embedded themselves into our lives, becoming a daily normality.

Many employees believe that, when on their personal social media platforms, they can do, say and be friends with whomever they want – or don’t want. But does this behaviour impact on our professional lives?

For any behaviour to be considered workplace bullying, there must be repeated or persistent unreasonable action toward an employee which creates risk to their health and safety.

In September 2015 the Fair Work Commission (FWC) ruled that ‘unfriending on Facebook’, in conjunction with repeated unreasonable behaviours, did constitute bullying (Mrs Rachael Roberts v VIEW Launceston Pty Ltd as trustee for the VIEW Launceston Unit Trust T/A View Launceston; Ms Lisa Bird; Mr James Bird [2015] FWC 6556 (23 September 2015)).

In the Roberts v Bird case, Ms Roberts alleged she was bullied by Ms Bird while working as a Real Estate Agent for VIEW Launceston Pty Ltd. The tribunal found that Ms Bird had shown a ‘lack of emotional maturity’ and through repeated acts of unreasonable behaviour, bullied Ms Roberts in the workplace.

Other examples of unreasonable behaviour that contributed to this outcome and created a risk to health and safety included:

·        Name calling

·        Refusing to say ’Good morning’

·        Preferential treatment

·        Failing to follow organisational processes which then created detriment for the target

Organisations must have a policy that aims to prevent bullying in the workplace. However, a policy alone will not assist an employer form a substantial argument if a stop bullying order is made.

It is important to provide your employees with training on bullying in the workplace, outlining that sometimes conscious or unconscious acts showing favouritism can form patterns of unreasonable behaviour. For example, ordering or booking lunch for some staff but not for others could be bullying.

It is recommended that employers discourage employees from being ‘Facebook friends’ with colleagues. We all know workplace relationships have the potential to turn sour and ‘unfriending on Facebook’ can lead to conflict, disharmony and could be considered unreasonable when considered with other behaviours being exhibited.

By establishing a set of behavioural expectations where all employees are required to greet each other appropriately each morning and say goodbye to each other in the afternoon, employers can further mitigate the risk of bullying claims in the workplace. Employees need to be aware that if they wish to greet some colleagues individually, they need to be prepared to undertake this greeting for every member of the team.

Finally, it is recommended that employers coordinate appropriate conflict management training so they are able to identify the warning signs of conflict before they escalate and cause issues within the workplace.

If you would like to coordinate Conflict Management training for your Managers or if you would just like further information on how to mitigate the risks of bullying in the workplace – we can help! Just email solve@fiveseven.com.au

Candice MacFadyen

Candice is an energetic and pragmatic problem solver focused on tailoring bespoke....

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