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Addressing workplace bullying

Workplace bullying is a significant health and safety risk in Australian workplaces, affecting one in 10 workers.

In this webinar Michelle Tuckey, Professor of Work & Organisational Psychology, demonstrates why bullying is an organisational issue and shifts the focus to identifying and mitigating the root causes of bullying embedded within work environments, systems, and processes.

Nick Ford (psychologist and data scientist from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland) will also share insights into the practical resources available to assist organisations to systematically manage psychosocial hazards.

Good day everyone. Not long to go to the first of our Mental Health Week sessions. It's a live stream all about addressing workplace bullying. Our speakers are Michelle Tuckey and Nick Ford. They are standing by to deliver their presentations. Remember, if you have questions for either Michelle or Nick, you can do so by getting to the chat box, put your question in there, and we'll get to a Q and A session at the end of the two presentations. Not long to go, stay tuned. We'll be back shortly.

Good day everyone. I'm Chris Bombolas. I'm your MC for today on behalf of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. Welcome to the first of our Mental Health Week live stream sessions for 2023. I'd like to begin by respectfully acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land we are speaking to you from today and on which we are learning and working from today. We also pay our respects to elders past and present and extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people watching today. Mental Health Week is held nationally every October to raise awareness of the importance of psychologically safe workplaces and contributes to driving behaviour and attitudinal change to reduce stigma and discrimination of mental illness. In today's session, we'll be speaking about workplace bullying, which is a significant health and safety risk in Australian workplaces, affecting one in 10 workers. If this topic stirs up any emotions for you, please draw on the self-care supports that work for you and please reach out for support if necessary. The session will also be recorded. So, if you need to take a break, you can catch up on the recording later. In an emergency, please call OOO or visit your local hospital emergency department. You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For more information on support services available or information on supporting someone in distress, please visit forward slash emergency hyphen contacts. This contact will be placed in the chat box. So you can get to it as well. In this session, Michelle Tuckey, Professor of Work and Organisational Psychology from the University of South Australia, will demonstrate why bullying is an organisational issue and shift the focus to identifying and mitigating the root causes of bullying embedded within work environments, systems and processes. Nick Ford, psychologist and data scientist from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, will join us later in the session to share insights into the practical resources available to assist organisations to systematically manage psychosocial hazards. Nick will discuss emerging trends from people at work, a national tool for identifying, measuring and evaluating the control of risks to psychological health and safety. The data that Nick will discuss was gathered from over 50,000 respondents across more than 3,500 workplaces.
There will also be the opportunity to ask Michelle and Nick questions at the end of their presentations. So be sure to submit them in the chat box. Little bit of housekeeping to get us through first. If you have questions, as I said, for any of our speakers today, type them into the live Q&A chat box on the right of your screen at any time, and we will get to them during the Q&A session post both presentations. If you have any technical problems during the live stream, please make sure the sound on your computer is turned on, refresh your browser, and if that doesn't work, contact us via the live Q&A chat box. You can also change the size of your screen to full screen by selecting the four small arrows next to the volume bar at the bottom of your screen. I'd now like to welcome Professor Michelle Tuckey, one of Australia's leading researchers in workplace bullying prevention, recognised globally for her theoretical and practical advances in this domain. Michelle works towards change at a systemic level and has had significant national impact, including supporting the Australian Human Rights Commission's Set the Standard report on the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces 2021, and Guiding the Australian Medical Association's revised position statement on workplace bullying, harassment, and discrimination. The evidence-based Psychosocial Risk Management Program developed through Michelle's research has been implemented in more than 85 work sites around Australia. She has published over 100 significant research publications and currently serves as Associate Editor of the European Journal of Work and Organisational Psychology, and on the editorial boards of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology and the International Journal of Stress Management. Certainly, an impressive CV. Welcome, Michelle.
Hello, and thank you so much for the opportunity to be here. I'm delighted to share some of the insights from my research over the past 10 to 15 years on this topic, really giving some hope that it's possible to address workplace bullying as an organisational problem through a proactive risk management process. Before I begin, I really want to give a special thank you to my research team, several members from University of South Australia and University of Queensland, and they've played a wonderful role in this work and likewise to all our partner organisations and funders over particularly over the past 10 years. So, as we've heard already in the introduction, bullying is a very serious health and safety threat in Australian workplaces, affecting around one in 10 workers on an ongoing basis. The latest annual data from Safe Work Australia, published in 2021, show that injury compensation claims due to bullying and harassment. They constitute the largest proportion of accepted mental stress claims. They're the most frequent type of mental stress claim and they result in the highest median claim cost. Bullying is a type of mistreatment in the workplace that involves repeated unreasonable behaviour, is directed to a worker or a group of workers, and it creates a risk to their health and safety. And importantly, it doesn't include reasonable management action taken in a reasonable manner. And that's one of the really tricky points with bullying, trying to distinguish what's bullying and what's management. And my presentation will speak to a little bit of that today. Now there's just a wealth of data on the negative effects of bullying for targets, who experience the behaviours, but also for their teams and the organisations as a whole as well. So bullying affects mental health, it affects physical health, it affects both individual and organisational functioning. And one way of understanding the effects of bullying is through a process of erosion. So some of my own work showed that when people need to combat bullying, they actually exhaust them. So they invest a lot of energy into that process of coping with the bullying. And that leads to a further loss of their resources, job resources like social support, which they need to withstand the bullying, but also their personal resources like hope and optimism. And it's this process of erosion of resources that what brings about the symptoms of ill health that we see from bullying. And some research hot off the press actually, just released by me and my team, we published world first evidence-linking bullying exposure. To impairments in foundational cognitive processes, assessing working memory and attention. So, what we did here was we had people who were self-reported as being exposed to bullying as targets, and also a group of non-targets. And we brought them into the university lab, and we showed them some pictures of objects on the screen. So, to test their verbal memory, they had to remember the object names. The visual memory was where the objects were located. And the central executive functioning looks at both of those in combination. We also had a measure of attention as well, finding letters in an array. And so, what we saw really clearly is that targets of bullying scored much more poorly on these tests of working memory and attention. So, we've got this world first evidence that there's a link between being exposed to bullying and actually not being able to perform as well on mental tasks. And this is really fundamental for understanding how bullying might have such an impact in our work environments. So, though we've known for decades about the harms of workplace bullying, it really persists as a serious health and safety problem. And one of the barriers to effective prevention is the myth that bullying at work is just a problem of individual bullies. So perhaps it's the bad apples in the barrel, the off the psychopath, the abusive supervisor. And that's often how the common bullying, anti-bullying approaches are framed as well. So, we select the right individuals into an organisation. We have a bullying policy, and we educate them about what bullying is and other forms of unprofessional behaviour. We give them some training to enhance their skills. And then we investigate the actions of individuals who are reported at having bullying others. Now to change this picture, we actually need to shift the mindset about the origins of the bullying problem. So, we've got to correct the course from this idea that bullying is an individual problem towards organisational level prevention. So, the evidence tells us that bullying is actually a product of the organisational context. So, it flourishes when there's an incentive to treat people badly, when there's some kind of fertile soil for getting away with the bullying. And often there's an event or a situation that sparks off the bullying as well. So, we call these the enablers, the motivators and the triggers. So, enabling factors are those that make a work environment conducive to bullying. Power imbalance is the core enabling ingredient. Bullying can only take place when there's some kind of greater level of power with the person who's initiating those negative actions. Often we also see low costs for the people who are behaving badly. Stress in the system can be an enabling ingredient as well. So high workloads, work pressure, high levels of demands, they all take time, energy and other resources and they lower the threshold for aggression in workplaces. Now, though these kinds of enablers, they provide the foundation for bullying to occur, they might not be sufficient to sustain ongoing patterns of bullying. So typically, in situations of ongoing bullying, there are some kind of motivating factors as well that play a rewarding or a reinforcing role for bullying others at work. For example, bullying might be an effective way of getting resources, especially when they're really scarce. Bullying can be used to maximise opportunities for personal rewards or status. It could be a way of getting things done when bureaucratic constraints get in the way or a way of dealing with poor performance. Sometimes people are even too depleted or lack the capability to do things differently. So, they use bullying behaviours as a way of getting things done in organisations. And in all of these situations, there's some kind of value or payoff from the bullying behaviour. Now, finally, the triggers of bullying, they typically stem from changes in the status quo. So often it's organisational restructuring or downsizing sometimes as well as changes in management or changes in the composition of work teams. And bullying can even be kind of set up through changes in interpersonal relationships that happen when a conflict has escalated. Recently, my team looked further into this idea of triggers and motivating processes for bullying. So, we had access to 50 workplace bullying complaints like with the Regulator Safe Work South Australia. And in these complaints, we identified three sets of triggers, each connected to a particular motivating process. Now, two of the triggers we found stem from responses to the work environment. So, they showed that bullying functions as a way to release the strain and frustration caused by stresses at work and as a way to protect and acquire scarce resources in the work environment. So, these triggers really emphasise the importance of removing those enabling factors through healthy work design. The third type of trigger that we found in those bullying cases we analysed reflects attempts to maintain the status quo related to different types of societal power imbalance, such as gender, cultural and linguistic diversity and age. So, this is a really interesting finding because it highlights the potential for bullying to be used in combination with other types of this treatment of work, such as sexual harassment or discrimination. And so, bullying can actually present as a really complex psychosocial hazard and can be some intersectionality between those different types of behavioural psychosocial hazards. So, let's bring these ideas to life with an example. One of the most common situations I've encountered in my bullying prevention work in the last 10 years is a combination of understaffing and high work pressure. Now, in this kind of situation, it's common to see bullying behaviour directed at employees in a spill over of tension or as a way of getting things done in a really high pressure work environment. If these systemic causes of bullying are ignored, bullied employees are likely to leave the organisation in order to work elsewhere. And when they do, their turnover will only worsen that existing staffing and workload issues. Over time, common to see an ongoing negative spiral emerging. So that actually creates the greater risk of bullying from increasing pressure in the work system and also gives rise to other kinds of psychosocial hazards like role overload. And so, you might have heard this idea talked about as that intersectionality of psychosocial hazards, where they come from the same common causes. Now, against this kind of backdrop, even the best bullying policies, bullying awareness education and skills training, they're unlikely to have much of a preventative impact. When we do have those anti-bullying ingredients in place, however, in an organisation, then it is possible to unlock a step change in prevention by addressing the root causes of bullying in the design and management of work. A more complex real-life example comes from the 2015 Review of Bullying, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination in the surgical profession in Australia and New Zealand. The advisory groups final report to the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons identified these factors here on the screen as the main contributors to these behavioural problems in that profession. So, we have unhealthy work, so we have a situation in which surgeons had to work really long hours. Sometimes they've been asked not to claim for overtime, and they're being bullied not to do that. And this is within a broader kind of culture where mistreatment is part of the norm and it's part of the initiation process, actually, to toughen people up to become surgeons. As well, the junior surgeons felt a sense of vulnerability and career destiny. So, a lot for them is writing on getting really positive reports from the more senior colleagues. And so that's that power imbalance component that I talked about earlier as the key enabler. And then we have the low-costs enabler that I mentioned as well, in the form of lack of accountability. So, surgeons are regarded as being really important for hospital market share. And so that, in a sense, made them untouchable and part of what could contribute to these ongoing patterns of behaviour. Another really common issue identified in this report, again, something that I've seen a lot in the work that I do, is this lack of supervisory skills. So, people tend to be promoted because they're really good at the core operational tasks of the organisation. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're really well-equipped to be able to give feedback and to train and coach and mentor other people. And so that was another key issue identified in this report. And finally, a lack of trust in the complaints process. So, for people to actually raise things and have their complaints investigated, that needs to be confidential. And there needs to be no conflict of interest there. And that wasn't the case in this process. Now, talking to managers accused of bullying also really highlights bullying as an organisational problem. Now, the issue is raised by managers in this study. So there hasn't been a lot of work on this. But yeah, this one study that I want to talk about of interviews with 24 managers, 100% agreed that they had used negative behaviours against others. So that's things like setting unreasonable deadlines or providing critical feedback. But nearly all of them thought they'd never bullied anyone at work, even though those bullying claims were not. And 26% of the cases. Now, the managers really talked about some similar ideas that we hear from targets of bullying when they tell their stories. They talked about a stressful work environment, having their own work pressure, role conflict, and ambiguity about their role and they're lacking those personal resources. They talked about how their reasonable management action was interpreted as bullying as well. And sometimes they're just passing down the organisational practices. And that gets interpreted as bullying too. And they also thought that they would be bullied in around two thirds of those cases. So, we see that managers really could be at a pinch point in the organisation system. When their system is full of stress, and they're actually the ones that need to apply the pressure to get their work done, then this can actually spiral into a bullying situation and the managers feel caught up in that as well. And of course, bullying is also recognised in our work health and safety legislation as a threat that arises primarily from the design and management of work and a social and organisational context. So, it's recognised very much as an organisational issue and not just as a behavioural problem. And so, for more than a decade, the guidance from our peak health and safety body, Safe Work Australia, likewise in the jurisdictions around the country, have mandated that businesses must approach psychosocial hazards like bullying through a proactive risk management cycle to reduce the risk of psychological harm. And this requirement was formalised in 2022 through the Model Code of Practice for managing psychosocial hazards. It's been progressively adopted in jurisdictions across Australia. So, a useful way to start to think about how can we address bullying as an organisational problem is to ask how can it take root? So, bullying behaviour is what's visible in organisations, just like this tree growing above the ground. Common anti-bullying interventions, some of which I've already mentioned, so having that workplace bullying policy, some education and training and awareness, having a way for bullying to be reported, investigating complaints and providing support to targets. Now, these remedies all focus on the behaviour itself, on defining bullying, outlining how to report it, over-viewing the investigation procedure and the disciplinary consequences and so on. So, directing the attention to what we can see on the surface is a necessary part of bullying prevention, but it actually overlooks the structural risk factors inherent in the organisation system. In other words, it overlooks the factors at the root, which the research shows are the real causes of bullying. So, focusing prevention efforts primarily at bullying behaviour, it weights that responsibility for health and safety towards individuals to be nice to each other and might reinforce that myth that bullying is a problem of individual bullies. But when we can look deeper, when we can go beyond the behaviour to address the organisational risk factors, that gives us the opportunity to design out bullying from our organisational systems and provide a safe and healthy work environment. So, this is the path to sustainable and effective prevention oriented towards eliminating and minimising the risk of bullying at the source, and that's where proactive risk management comes in. And that's been my focus over the last 10 years, and in that time I've developed, tested and refined an evidence-based programme to identify and mitigate the root cause organisational risk factors for bullying by improving work design. Now, the risk management programme follows a five-stage model. So, this reflects the psychosocial hazard risk management cycle, and it's also grounded in best practice principles within the literature on organisational health and wellbeing interventions. So, the first stage is preparation. That's really important when you're going to do this root cause work. You have to build readiness to go through the process. You need to have senior leader commitment. You need to have people released from the work time to be able to do this intervention work. You've got to have a good communications plan. You've got to have all the other resources ready to go. And then the intervention itself commences with the diagnosis stage. So, it's really important to use all sorts of data and evidence to identify which risk areas to focus on. Now, you take that diagnostic report into the third stage, which we call solutions. So, this is where we bring together people from all different levels, frontline workers, team leaders, managers, and even senior leaders to understand, you know, where the risks are coming from and then co-design solutions. Then we go into the implementation phase. That's when we consolidate the solutions generated in that third phase into an action plan and start to implement them at multiple levels. So, you might have team and department and even a team and department and even organisational-wide solutions. And finally, in evaluation, we look at not just changes in outcomes, but we also want to see what are the factors that really help us to be successful when we're doing this kind of risk management work. So, one of the success factors underlying this program is that it starts with an audit of the root forces of bullying in the work system. So, we don't come in and say, "How can we make your workplace better?" Or even, "How can we stop bullying?" Instead, we focus our efforts on the context in which bullying is likely to emerge, guided by a risk order. So, the order assesses 10 root causes of bullying and other psychosocial hazards arising from the design and management of work. So, we looked across 342 bullying complaints lodged with Safe Work South Australia, so around 5,500 pages of information. And we could see that these 10 areas actually explained the bullying situations that people were describing in those 342 complaints. So, we can organise them into three different groups. The first one is around coordinating, administering and looking after rostering, scheduling and working hours and leaving entitlements. So when these things aren't done well, people can feel bullied. The second domain is around managing work performance. So that's everything from having really clear job roles to begin with, the right training to do the job and good training development pathways, fair allocations of tasks and workload and ways to monitor and review that, looking at appraising rewarding job performance, the sorts of feedback that are given and managing underperformance is the last aspect in that second domain. There's a really high overlap in these cases, around 42% of the complaints had some aspect of underperformance as well. The third domain is a little bit broader. It's around the relationships and the work environment. So, what's the level of fairness in interpersonal and team relationships? What's the general climate around mental health and wellbeing and are there physically safe working conditions? Now, the good news is that work design in these 10 areas is a modifiable risk factor for bullying that can be directly targeted and changed through risk controls. So, in other words, these 10 different risk factors offer concrete risk assessment and risk mitigation points. So being grounded in that order, the intervention is data driven. So, we work to change the areas of organisational functioning where we can have the most impact and we try and target those solutions at the systemic risk factors. And that's what underpins effective and sustainable prevention of bullying. So, the order produces a unique diagnostic profile for each work unit or team or department. That really resonates with staff members. It helps them to understand the key challenges they face. And looking across multiple work units helps them to normalise the challenges that each area is facing and really drive solutions. So, this is an example of a risk profile in 10 different supermarket stores in one of our Eastern states. What really stands out here is that there's a system of risks at play. So, we see that some stores score more highly up into the green area and the scores for some of the other stores are lower down in that orange band. But they have the same peaks and troughs across the 10 different areas, which we can see across the bottom of the graph. Those 10 different risk contexts that I outlined earlier. So, it's really interesting to note that even though these stores are up to hundreds of kilometres away from each other, there's something about working for this particular supermarket company that has strengths in maintaining a safe working environment and in lower scores in terms of managing underperformance, managing tasks and workload and so on. So, these risk factors, these 10 risk factors, actually work together to operate as a system of risks. Now, we see when we look at a different context, this is an example from four different public sector agencies in a different one of our Eastern states. We've got the same kind of idea. You know, some departments are scoring higher and some lower than others, but we have the same kinds of peaks and troughs across four different government agencies or doing different types of work, legal aid, land services, education, child protection and so on. So, there's something around working in this working system, which creates a different kind of risks that are common across these departments but very different to the supermarket's context. So, it's really important to start with that audit to actually really understand where the root cause of the risks lie. So having that root cause order, having that diagnostic profile, that actually sets up the process really well to find solutions. So, in the solutions phase, guided by that diagnostic report, we use a range of different co-design processes. So, co-design brings together diverse stakeholders on equal ground to really build a shared understanding of the problem and then work together on designing creative solutions. So ,we've typically done this through a half a day workshop. So, we unpack the problems and then use collaborative brainstorming methods to identify some quick wins and some longer term intervention strategies. You can use a range of different co-design techniques where you have people together, where you have them separated in time and place. There's an opportunity to be creative. The main thing is that we bring people together for that collaborative process. So, co-design is really important and useful at this point in risk management because it gives both structure and flexibility. So, there's a way of working through to find solutions to problems but flexibility to bring creative ideas in. It enables a bit to the organisational context. So, the people that are affected by health and safety risks, they know a lot about where those risks are coming from, and they have great ideas for how to solve them as well. So, it really utilises the expertise of staff. It promotes collaboration between people from different areas of the organisation, from different levels of the organisation, and brings together their multiple perspectives and needs. And in doing that, it really helps build those relationships and make for a stronger social climate in the organisation as well. And lastly, co-design helps build ownership and ongoing participation in the risk management process, which is something that really drives its success. So, to put it simply, people, employees, workers, they really love having the opportunity to participate in improving their work environment and reducing the risks that come to them, you know, preventing bullying in their workplace. So, they describe this process of working together on solutions as engaging, fun, informative, interesting and helpful. In another example, hopeful, positive, informative, inspiring, encouraging. So, by really thinking about the systemic risks, moving away from blaming individuals, we transform people into a space where they can get behind the solution and they really want to be involved at making better work environments. So, the programme then moves into the implementation phase. This is the riskiest stage of the change process. We really need to keep the idea alive. So, we've been at a great workshop and everyone's on a high from coming up with some really good solutions. Then we go back to the reality of the day-to-day working environment, and we need to keep it alive and actually start to implement those changes to work design. So here, implementation of the solutions that were co-designed by the teams that involves, you know, having a concrete action plan, prioritising solutions, documenting roles and responsibilities and time frames, having a way of reviewing progress and so on. So really treating it like its own project, I guess. Now, this is more successful when those solutions or those risk management strategies are integrated into day-to-day ways of working and lots of the solutions do this by changing or introducing working practices, changing policies and procedures and really bending down new ways of working. And that's another thing that makes this kind of work successful. So, during this phase, my team has met with the teams monthly to solve any challenges that they're having. So, kind of keep the project alive, as I've mentioned, what the barriers in the way of making this work, help problem solve those, support communication of the project, help, you know, encouraging that collaborative implementation and involvement right across. So, these are some quotes from that stage of the project. So, the benefits really around getting a diverse group of people engaged, around shifting the mindset to that systems view, connecting the dots to the supports that are already in place, you know, the importance of ownership and the people at the workshop being the first to put up their hands. And shifting is from being a HR issue to a collaborative process. I think this is a really important insight from this work. You know, bullying prevention doesn't live with HR or OD or work health and safety. It really lives across all of the work units by working at this root cause risk level. Now, finally, moving into the evaluation, as I mentioned, we look at both the outcomes and also at the success factors that help make this kind of risk management process successful. So, in this phase, our results indicate that this risk management intervention is effective in improving healthy work design in the risk context. So, we can go back for that risk order, and we can see the scores improve from pre-intervention to post-intervention. Some really robust results about how this lower risk and healthy work design translates into lower levels of bullying exposure and fewer bullying complaints comes from a randomised controlled trial. So, this is in the supermarkets context, and we had 30 stores that participated in this programme and we had another 30 stores that went through business as usual. And so, what we can see here on the left is the intervention group, the purple scores pre-intervention and the pink scores post-intervention. And on the right, we have those control stores, business as usual. So, we saw a 24% reduction on average after going through this programme in the intervention group. That was a great result for us because this research was done during the COVID-19 lockdown period and the panic buying. It was really high stress and pressure time for supermarkets. And so that probably explains why in the control groups there was around a 155% increase on average in bullying under that really high stress and pressure time. So really good high quality evidence from a strong study design that going through this programme does lead to reductions in bullying, even in high pressure times. As well as producing bullying, the programme's effective in building a positive culture. Like I said, there's something about changing the social dynamic by doing this collaborative work together on the root causes of bullying. And so that's what this positive feedback from participating employees illustrates. So, they talk about the buy at being more supportive and their store just feeling more positive. They also talk about, you know, being a psychologically safe situation, giving them, you know, the opportunity to open up about problems in a way that they normally wouldn't have the opportunity to. And finally, becoming more united and more connected with their colleagues and co-workers. So, it went beyond just what the actions were, the particular solutions that they were implementing, to actually create a positive vibe. Everyone was more supportive, they had each other's backs, and they became, you know, in the supermarket context, not just a department player, but really thinking about how they could contribute across the whole store and support everyone. So, as one leader said, the biggest learning was that you can just make these simple, small interventions, and they're quite effective at having quite an impact. And these kind of changes in culture that people talk about in the stories of this research, they show up in regular culture survey results. So again, going back to that randomised perspective, the mice control trial in the supermarkets area, the supermarket companies collecting really regular data from their staff around the culture. And we see here, whether or not employees were advocated, this is a great place to work for the organisation and for their store in particular. So, the purple line is our intervention stores that went through the programme. The green line is those 30 control group stores that were doing business as usual. And the pink line up the top is stores in the same state. They don't know anything about this research project that we're doing. So, we've got a real increase in culture from before to after the intervention in our intervention stores. And likewise, at the same time in the control stores, it's not changing very much, or it's actually decreasing under that high pressure time. So again, really strong evidence. Not only are we reducing bullying risk, but by getting people to work together, we're actually building a healthy workplace culture as well. So, we've collected lots of evidence over the last 10 years that this programme does work. But I want to talk a little bit about why it works. There's going to be some important messages there for the bullying prevention work that you might do in your own organisation. So, in our case study with government agencies, we identified four different and important mechanisms of change in this process. So, first of all, it's clear that shifting mindsets to a systems view actually builds capability and fosters collaboration. So, it's a new way of thinking about workplace problems that's actually helpful for solving them and unlocking the potential for change. Second, having a strong evidence base behind the programme, having the diagnostic audit and risk tool builds confidence and increases foundational knowledge about the areas of risk and how to solve them. And that helps to tailor the intervention in ways that maximise the positive outcomes. Next, participatory co-design increases buy-in at all levels, boosts team morale, being involved in shaping the intervention in meaningful ways generates deeper insights about the problems and better solutions, but it also increases ownership of the change process and builds that longer term capabilities to solve problems collaboratively. The final mechanism of change in this study was customised coaching and support. So that actually helps the team to solve problems if they're trying to make their changes to work design. It builds resilience by providing the assurance, strengthening the connections and reinforcing how to lead effective change. As one leader said in that project, it's not just about the doing of the project, it's about a way of being. We had a new way of being throughout this project. Our case study in the supermarkets, context uncovered a bit more about the dynamics of effective change when we're doing this risk management prevention work for bullying. So, we saw in that project that effective change starts with establishing a safety net. That really relies initially on positive signals from managers and senior leaders. So really got to get behind and emphasise the importance of doing this root cause prevention work, and that provides a safety signal for employees to feel safe to open up into the change process. So, within that safety net, participation fosters involvement and ownership at multiple levels. So, leaders and managers, they need to drive this process and drive the change, but they also have to empower staff to shape and participate in the change process in a meaningful way. So, these two ingredients, having that safety net in place and then having that participation, they are the foundations for effective risk management and making those changes at root cause level. When the foundations are established, the change execution mechanisms enable those effective solutions to be implemented. So, this involves fostering team unity. That's in how the team thinks about the work that they're doing in a united way, but also how they work together cohesively on making those changes in practice, along with reinforcing that positive change trajectory. So, you've got to notice, you've got to celebrate the change efforts and the outcomes that you are, you know, realising along the way, and that will help persist with the change effort and then open up the potential for more positive change. Overall, the evaluation data tell us that how employers engage with staff represents a way to directly build employee health and wellbeing. So, this really gives me hope that organisations can be sites of wellbeing, not only sites of potential harm to mental health. So, this story shared by one supermarket store manager about a team member really says it better than I can. So, he says, now the young man, he's 19 years old and he's had some mental health challenges. So, he normally stays in his show and sticks to himself. But in that workshop, he was able to open up and it gave him the chance to feel like he was talking and having a voice. Now the parents of this team member came in a week after the session and said, it's actually supported him and changed him at a personal level at home, interacting more with his mates. And it really gave that store manager goosebumps to talk about it again. So, some concluding thoughts then, you know, what have I really learned if I look back over this work that I've done in the last 10 years in particular. Effective and sustainable bullying prevention requires us to go beyond policies, education, recording. Now we've got to have those remedies of course, but they need to be backed up by meaningful action, approaches that involve co-designing and implementing solutions that really address the root causes of bullying within the organisation system. So, participatory co-design processes in a data-driven or intelligence-led intervention, that actually gives us a new way of tackling the underlying drivers of bullying to support lasting prevention of bullying and reduction of risk, but also create effective culture change. And so, this for me is a real opportunity, as I said, for organisations to become sites of well-doing rather than sites where mental health might get hung. And finally, in embarking on this work, senior management commitment and involvement sends a vital safety signal to unlock employee engagement and ownership of the changes to the design and the management of their work.
Thank you very much. - Thanks, Michelle. Appreciate that presentation. You can take a little breather as we change focus for a little while. And remember, for you guys that are watching, if you do have a question for Michelle, pop it into the Q&A box and we'll get back to your questions at the end of our next presentation, which is the cue for me to welcome our next speaker, Nick Ford. Nick is a psychologist and data scientist leading the National People at Work program in the Psychological Health Unit at Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. He is passionate about developing systems that support workers to flourish and has experience in performance measurement, leadership, staff selection, and development and psychometrics. Nick has worked in the public and private sectors in selection and assessment in defence and emergency services and has provided consulting services across education, sports, construction, research, and other industries. I'd like to welcome in Nick now for his presentation.

Thanks so much for the introduction. So, I'll be talking today about psychosocial hazard management, continuing the theme, and I do have a bit of insight into some bullying data later in the presentation. But first up, some stats. So, we know that 62% of the Australian workforce has experienced a mental health condition, and 22% of workers said the workplace either caused that mental health condition or made it worse. I think that's a real shame given work can be such a restorative and healthy thing for people. We know that there's massive productivity implications, $39 billion a year in lost productivity and participation. And we know that there's unprecedented rates of sexual harassment that are rising with one in three people having experienced it in the last five years. However, there is hope, and there's some very efficient hope on the way in that $1 expended in effective workplace mental health strategies has a return of $2.30. So, we know that money spent on effective programmes is well invested. In terms of Queensland statistics, we know that over 1300 serious mental health claims are accepted in Queensland each year. We know that $84 million is paid out of insurance and that gets reflected in premiums. We know those claims are more than twice as expensive when compared to other serious claims. And we know that 181 days are lost for individuals, which is almost twice as long as other serious claims. We know there are particular industries that have vulnerabilities, including health and welfare support, defence force members, firefighters and police. So, what can we do about it all? Well, let's start with the hazards and risks. We know that psychosocial comes from psychological and social and similar to Professor Tuckey's presentation where the definition from the legislation is here talking about hazards that arise from or relate to design or management of work, the work environment itself planted the workplace or workplace interactions and behaviours. And it doesn't need to cause physical harm for it to be psychosocial harm. As mentioned earlier, psychological safety is a quality of teams that has to do with how comfortable they are to speak up and contradict their leaders, for example, and it's different to psychological health and safety, which is what I'll be focusing on today. So psychosocial risk is the likelihood of that hazard causing harm. An example might be if there's a high workload that regularly requires overtime that might fall into the hazard of high job demands that may cause frequent severe or long periods of stress and exposure to that may lead to burnout. With controls, of course, we could eliminate any risk of harm if they were perfect, and that's the goal that we aim for. And while we can't eliminate all hazards, we must use and improve control to reduce that risk of harm occurring so that the harms end up being smaller, less frequent, less severe. But how do we evaluate that risk? How do you know how likely a hazard is to call harm so that you can prioritise and intervene effectively? Well, that's where job demands and resources come in. Job demands are any aspect of the job that requires sustained effort and has a psychological or physiological cost associated with it. The two examples I have here are role conflict, which is where the boundaries of the role are unclear, and so in the course of your duties, you might be brought into conflict with co-workers. You might not know who gets responsibility if the work is completed successfully, who has the resources to do it effectively, or who's evaluating it. Role overload, I hope no one's too familiar with that, is this perception that you have more work than is feasible, and that creates stress in and of itself. And that lack of resources is important and leads us over to resources, which are aspects that are functional in achieving work goals and reducing work demands. The two examples I have there are job control, that's the sense that you can have an autonomous control over the pace, for example, the work might be done, the level of work standard, how you complete that task, or the order you do them in. And co-worker support is that sense that if you needed it, your co-workers could lean in with their expertise, effort, energy, and time, and help you achieve the goals of your role. And it's tempting to visualize these or conceptualize them as some things that may be held in balance. But I'd like you to take away the idea that if this is a balance, that's actually a fragile state of affairs. It wouldn't take a huge amount of loss of resources or increase in demands, things to fall out of kilter. And when they're out of kilter in this way, there's a greater likelihood that the stress experience of workers will be more severe, more frequent, or persist for longer. And we know that leads to a range of harms, both psychological and physical. What we want to see is a system that's resilient, where workers have a range of different resources they can draw on to meet the varying demands of their role. That way, if demands increase, suddenly they're able to bear those extra demands without dipping into the negative there. Likewise, if some of their resources aren't available, they've got others they can draw on to continue to stay healthy, well, and productive. We have talked a little bit about the legislation already, but I'd like to draw your attention to managing the risks of psychosocial hazards and work code of practice. This was first published in 2022 and has been enforceable since April this year. It gets really important to clarify that this doesn't add or expand any existing duties, rather it clarifies how those duties should be met. It's a great read. Obviously, it's under my pillow. And I think it's a great sort of case studies and examples and detail in there, as well as references to other resources that can help you tackle the related challenges. I won't speak too much to this, given the excellent explanation we've had already, but I will say that this cycle of identifying, assessing, controlling, and reviewing hazards, risks, controls, and harm, it's important that it be seen as a part of business as usual going forward. Rate of change is always accelerating. We have dynamic organizations in dynamic markets with dynamic workforces. And all of that means that it's important to regularly update and refresh insights on this. In the centre of this, we have management commitment. That's no accident. Without leader buy-in, it's very hard to get the right resources and effects. It's also risks it being seen as tokenistic or a tick box exercise. And that can really undermine efforts to develop effective controls to protect workers. Of course, in circling this, this consultation, and it's so important because the information to develop these effective controls or be aware of what the risks are, is not held in a central location. It's distributed through the workforce. So effective consultation is the only way to get the right information in the right place to make good decisions. Now, of course, the legislation does say that in managing risks to health and safety, persons conducting businesses undertakings must identify reasonably foreseeable psychosocial hazards that could give rise to harm, and controls must first be aimed at eliminating those hazards. And where that's not reasonably practicable, minimise them. And of course, risk assessment is the second stage there. And I'd like to talk a bit more about People at Work and how it can help with that. So, People at Work is a five-step program that starts with preparing the workplace. It includes a free psychosocial risk assessment survey, followed up with understanding and interpreting those results, which helps support you taking action in step four. And of course, the important step five, reviewing and improving in an ongoing way. As I mentioned, there's a free Australian-validated psychosocial risk assessment survey, and there's buckets of online resources. There's training modules, including suggested communication strategies and advertising materials. And there's two types of automated reports that can be produced for each survey that's run that has over 20 respondents. There's a snapshot overview report, which is an at-a-glance summary of the survey's results, and a comprehensive report, which includes a lot more detail and breaks down by groups. Now, of course, to protect respondents' anonymity and confidentiality, we do hide groups that have fewer than 10 members. It's really important that the trust of respondents is maintained throughout this process, and I view that as a partnership between us and organizations that choose to use People at Work. Of course, it's a funded project, and it's funded by the heads of Work Safety Authorities Australia and New Zealand. Our funding partners are all the Work Health and Safety regulatory agencies across Australia, including both Safe Work Australia as a policy body and ComCare. All of these regulators are provided with access to an aggregated, de-identified national trends report, and we can export de-identified data to conduct our own analyses. And the reason I'm excited about that beyond my own inherent love of data is that I think that as regulators, we can produce better supports and more timely resources that are appropriate and effective if we know where our help is needed and what help is needed. And of course, we're looking at iterating the industry benchmarks, so there's better comparisons for the results that you might obtain through this or other psychosocial risk assessment and management processes. What's in the survey? Really important to know what you're getting. I think there's six different demands in there, six different resources, two kinds of harmful experiences. There's a mandatory workplace bullying section, which we'll talk about in more detail shortly, and of course, an optional work-related violence and aggression module. We also measure four different kinds of harms that are associated with these, including psychological distress, musculoskeletal strains and strains, things like neck, wrists, back pain. Worker intentions, we have four different items that ask about their intention to take un-scheduled leave or to leave their organizational role. And of course, a measure of burnout, which has recently been added to the World Health Organisation's ICD-11 as a medical syndrome. I will take you briefly through the four pages of an overview report, so you can get a sample of the flavour or try and hit only the high notes. I think this graph in the bottom right is a great overall summary, which maps the average level of resources across the respondents against the average level of demands. You can see it's divided into those four quadrants. In the bottom right, we have minimal concern, and that's where there's more resources than demands. And of course, it's corollary. Significant concern is where there are very low resources to meet the very high demands. Now, as with any survey that deals in averages, individual responses will vary substantially. So it is important to look at the breakdowns in the comprehensive group to accurately interpret what might be needed for you. Part of the breakdown we provide is for each of the job demands and resources there, along with an interpretation guide. And you can see a black overall benchmark there. Now, that benchmark is across all industries, and the best benchmark to use is a previous bit of work you've done with people at work. I think the goal is to improve and iterate yourself, and if you're administering it regularly over six months or quarterly, for example, you can get some insight into how effective the interventions you're attempting are and for whom it's working. That can help you iterate and improve those controls. We do provide some breakdown on the sources and types of bullying and work-related violence, and of course, breakdowns by psychological distress, burnout, and the other harms we discussed. As I mentioned, it's funded by this wonderful range of collaborators, and I'm privileged to be on the working group and hear from them regularly and how we can improve, but of course, your feedback is important too. If you do engage with people at work, I'd urge you to reach out, give us your ideas, questions, and thoughts. I'll now do a quick whistle-stop tour on some bullying data from people at work. I've extracted for today's presentation just under 15,000 workers from Queensland over the last year from over 250 organizations. It's a mostly female cohort, and we've got a decent spread of ages, with most respondents being between 35 and 54 years of age. Good news is that 67% of respondents had had no experience of bullying by self-report questionnaire that is the people at work survey within the last six months. Now, if we look across those results, and you can see the remaining distribution, we snap them together, you can see that unfortunately, 33%, that's a third of respondents to this particular survey in this dataset, showed that they had had some experience at some point, and that's very concerning. I would like to see that much lower. So, for whom, who's affected and who needs help, we can see if we break it down by the sex that respondents chose, and we can see that females and males have comparable levels of unique experience, if you like, down the bottom, but there's a much greater experience of bullying for those who identify with another term. Being more respondents are also twice as likely to have experience bullying monthly or more frequently, and we can see an extra 33% or a third of individuals who identify with another term of experienced bullying in the last six months in this sample. So, concerning and a definite call for action. If we look by age, there's an interesting pattern there, I think, where we can see the older respondents, the more likely they are to indicate a higher frequency of experience of bullying. So, if you don't know, you don't have any insight into your organization, if you're yet to run people at work, but you want to get started, then it's important to think about what's appropriate for your organization and what its composition might mean in terms of hazards and risks. If we look at tenure, again, we can see the longer a respondent has been in their organization, the higher the average rate of bullying exposure. Again, very concerning. In terms of the types of behaviours that are experienced, we can see that ridicule, persistent criticism, verbal abuse, gossip, rumours, humiliation, or exclusion or isolation, all fall fairly similarly in terms of frequency with where are other behaviours. So, in terms of developing interventions, those might be signs to watch out for or further investigations to conduct as part of focus groups or interviews with workers in consultation. And again, we can see those who identify sex with another term have higher rates across the board. But I think some interesting points on this dataset is that threats are the only behaviour where males experience a higher level than females. In all other cases, females experience more, a high frequency, I should say, of those behaviours. Where is it coming from? Well, writ large, co-workers seem to be the largest source, followed by supervisors, clients and customers, members of the public, and then subordinates. And the individuals who experience those, again, higher across the board for those who identify with another term. But we can see that there's a little bit of a discrepancy in co-workers and response to identify of another term are twice as likely to experience bullying from co-workers as others. Females are more likely to be bullied by clients or customers, and males are more likely to be bullied by members of the public, keeping in mind that overall, that particular source is less frequently attributed. So, our data so far suggests that a third of Queensland workers experienced bullying in the last six months. Compared with males, females were almost twice as likely to have experienced bullying monthly or more frequently. Compared with males and females, those identifying with another term experience bullying more than twice as often. In general, the older a worker was, or the longer their tenure, the more likely they were to have experienced bullying. That ridicule, persistent criticisms, and verbal abuse, as well as others were common kinds of bullying. The co-workers were the most common source of bullying behaviours, followed by supervisors, then clients or customers. Females were more likely than males to be bullied by clients or customers, while males were more likely than females to be bullied by members of the public. And those identifying with another term were about twice as likely to experience bullying from co-workers. So, there's lots of work to happen here. If you're working on this, if you've engaged with a program, or you're thinking about it, I urge you to look at the Be Recognized Awards program that WorkSafe Queensland runs. It's really easy to apply. I believe it can all be done online. It aligns with a toolkit that's very functional in improving workplace performance and wellbeing. It allows you to build on your work as you go forward, moving through different recognition levels. And we have a gallery of recognition that we provide that allows you to be recognized for your efforts in the program. I think prospective workers would be well advised to look for potential employers there as well if they're looking to make a jump. So that's a good place to be advertising. Thanks so much. As I said, please reach out if you have any questions. I encourage you to have a look at the website and let us know if you have any thoughts, questions or ideas. Thank you.
Thank you, Nick, for your presentation. We do have a number of questions already. Remember, if you do have a question for either Michelle or Nick, please pop it into the Q&A chat box and we'll get to as many as we can in the next 15 minutes. Thank you both for your presentations. Let's go to the questions. And Jodie has a multi-layered question and I'll try and summarise it as best as I can.

Jodie says, "Often there is a pattern "where non-senior staff are dismissed "if there is a breach of code of conduct, "but different rules for senior staff "who are found to be bullying "or even sexually harassing staff. "They are moved sideways. "What are your thoughts, Michelle, on this issue? "It can be seen in many industries, "both public and private sectors." And the second part of the question, Jodie's also keen to know if you, Michelle, have seen this same practice and how can junior staff call this double standard out? Let's get to that and then I'll get to the final part of Jodie's question.
Thank you. Thanks Jodie, highlighting a really important issue. This was raised in the report in the surgery profession, as I mentioned. It's one of the absolute enablers of bullying. So to the extent that people can get away with this kind of behaviour, particularly senior people, then it's going to be very hard to remedy bullying within an organisation. So, for me, that really underscores the importance of involving the whole workforce in bullying prevention. So, the more degree that we're sharing inputs and ownership of risk management, we can have a better chance of creating a healthy work system. But I have to make a call out to senior managers, to human resource professionals. Unless something's done about this issue, it's going to be very hard to have effective bullying prevention in organisations. So we can't have one or the other, we need to have both. We need to have meaningful and serious action to send signals that the behaviour is not okay around here. And we also need to have risk management of those root causes in partnership with the whole workforce to create that healthy workplace culture. And we simply must have them both.
Michelle, if I can take it one step further. Is there any grey in this area in that, from your presentation, reasonable managerial direction is what I think I'm providing, you, as in the individual, may think that's bullying?
So, to me, there's a bit of a grey area here. But if there's no grey, and going on with Jodie's question, how do we get the courage, how do we sum up what we have left in us to come up against people who have that perceived power or the real power within an organisation? Two good points there. Talking about performance management initially, and then I'll go to the second part of the question, one of the most effective ways is to actually think performance management doesn't start when there's a problem in performance. It starts right back when your worker joins the organisation or in an effective, ongoing, informal and formal performance development process. So, we should be thinking about what can we do to help our people be their best at work and thinking about it in that person-centred way. If we wait for performance problems to show up, as I mentioned in my talk, they're probably coming from a combination of ingredients around the clarity of the roles and the work pressure and the kind of feedback that's given and the rewards and recognition. So, it's a really muddy process to solve a problem after it's emerged. So, the best tip I have in walking that line between reasonable management action is actually to start thinking right from the start, how can we help people be their best and approaching it in that way, have regular informal conversations and check-ins, get on the same page, clarify those roles. I wish I had a better answer to the second part of the question because of the power structures in organisations. Organisations are designed in order to develop power from the top down to the bottom in order to get the work done. And so, it's very hard to change those official power structures. And so, I'd encourage people to look at different mechanisms. There could be unions, there could be committees, there could be other ways of having voice and participation. But I can't get away from the idea that we really got to have senior management commitment and support. And so, if there's an unhealthy workplace culture and senior leaders are not committed to being part of changing that culture, then it's probably better to think about leaving. And I know that's not a really good solution, but bullying really is an organisational problem and effective prevention really does require looking at those root cause ingredients. Now, I know health and safety agencies can have some support as well. We have the anti-bullying jurisdiction in the Fair Work Commission. So, there are some remedies if things are going wrong. But the best way is to focus on the root cause prevention. In a particular work group, you know, you can do some stuff from the bottom up. You don't only have to wait for senior leaders. So, you can start to think about the sorts of root causes that I've talked about today. You can start to think about rewards and recognition, think about your work pressure. You can start to make those changes from the bottom up. And then maybe you can build up some evidence for some effective changes and take that up the line. So, yeah, it's not very easy to answer this question in just a black and white way.
OK, PM asks, "How do you get senior leader buy-in when rather than taking it as an organisational approach, they perhaps take it as a personal reflection of their leadership skills and get rather defensive?"
Yeah, thinking about it as a systems issue is what I've found leads to success in that area. So, trying to understand it like the tree that I talked about or another way of thinking about it is like an iceberg, you know, when bullying or other kinds of unprofessional behaviours show up. It's the tip of the iceberg. But at the bottom of the iceberg is our working practices and systems and policies and processes. And managers, as much as anyone, are part of that system of work and affected by those working practices and processes. So, thinking about it as an organisational problem can be the key to unlocking everyone to get behind a solution rather than pitting people against each other and trying to shift the blame for the problem. So, that's a really effective way to shift into that solutions-focused mode.
Hang in there, Nick. We will have some questions for you. But at the moment, Michelle is dominating.
Another one for you, Michelle. Kimberly asks, "She's observed that people management "is often conducted behind closed doors and internally." Michelle, your thoughts on that issue and tips for how learnings can be shared.
Yeah, I think when, like I said, I talked about performance management needing to start well before there's an actual problem. If there is a problem, then of course we need to have confidentiality and maybe that's the behind-doors element. It's hard to tell from the question. We need to respect people's dignity in any processes of work. And so, my number one tip would be coming at it to try and understand where challenges are coming from and where support can be applied. But more broadly, one of the things that the teams I've worked with have often done is just reinvigorate it there one-to-ones. Get it outside of the working environment. Have a conversation with your team members. Talk with them about how they're going, how the work's going. You know, really open them up to bring in ideas for how to make things more effective. That can actually solve a lot of the performance management problems for the worker. We had the stories shared by the supermarket store manager about a team member who presents with mental health challenges. Again, being invited into this conversation, being having the opportunity to make changes to the work environment, something that empowered them and opened them up and, you know, at least of them performing better at home and outside of the work environment as well. So, these things are all better when we pay attention to them earlier rather than later, when we approach them in a way that involves and empowers our workforce. And the managers going through this kind of process as well, they're amazed at how much it shifts the burden away from them. They're in that pinch point in the organisational system. By really involving their staff in a positive way, it shifts the pressure off of them so that they can get to those managerial parts of their role because, you know, the workforce is leading these positive changes in the work environment.
Nick, hang in there. I've got one coming up for you, but I've got to follow on firstly for you, Michelle. Nicole asks, "There seems to be a theme of lower effectiveness "in terms of managing underperformance. "Do you know of any examples of workplaces "who are managing underperformance, poor performance well, "or models, best practice examples you can share about that for us?"
I don't have particular examples to share, but I really think it's demystifying the process. Like I said, some of those most basic building blocks is around building the solid relationships with your team members, having regular conversations, having ways for them to have a voice and raise issues and reflecting on things. These are going to establish that really strong working relationship so that when it comes time to give feedback, you can do that in a really helpful way. The other lesson learned through my work is the importance of positive feedback. So, if we've only got critical feedback coming in, this isn't going to be motivating or enriching or helpful to anyone. People need to know what they're doing well in just a quiet way often, you know? They need that recognition in an ongoing sense. They need that thank you, they need appreciation. This also paves the way to be able to provide, you know, performance feedback in a regular ongoing way so that the extent to which you can do all of this informally and regularly, it's going to be more successful than letting things escalate to the point where you have to apply the formal policies and processes and procedures because that can often serve to escalate the situation in a negative way rather than bring it to a positive conclusion.
Nick, you've had plenty of time to come up with a cracker answer for this one. So, for you, what advice would you give to organisations considering using PAW for the first time in order to get the most out of this really valuable resource?
Great question. I think it's a great idea to engage with the resources and training on the website first up but be really clear about your own organisational context. Get curious about what the state of play is, what are the challenges in your organisation. It's never too early to start asking stakeholders to get involved, to have a think about what might be gained by the process. And you can obviously use the resources online that cover case studies from past examples. And you can always reach out to us as well. But I think it's a great process to engage with and I hope people do.
Nick, also, what about if the state of play is a mess, if the PAW survey is a good first up step, or is there any housekeeping that we should do first?
Yeah, I think it's great to put yourself in a place of knowing the extent of your organisation. I think knowing some of the habits and norms around the place that might support or inhibit the way you're approaching communication and engagement with the strategy, we know that a lot of respondents are... Sorry, a lot of workers and organisations are respondents to a number of different surveys. So, building a case for the utility here and following through on that is important too. I think if... I hope not too many organisations would consider themselves in a mess, but I think if you recognise the need, I think building a case for change is a big part of that too.
Thanks, Nick. Back to you, Michelle. HR is basically designed to protect the organisation, not so much the employee. So, can we change the culture to be employee-focused rather than covering bases should it end up in a messy legal battle or something similar?
This is a really great opportunity for HR and an organisation to embrace, I would say. The ways that we engage with our employees, the ways that we involve them, particularly in regards to things that affect their mental health and wellbeing, that turns around the view of staff that manager or HR doesn't support them and instead can cultivate this sense of being supported and valued at work and then people will perform better. They'll stay with you longer. They'll be more engaged. They deliver better than a customer service. So, there's a prime opportunity to establish these real and genuine and authentic ways of engaging and consulting with staff. And so that, for me, puts everyone on the same page. We're shooting for the same kind of goal and rather than, as you said, escalating into a terrain where someone is representing the interests of the organisation versus the employee. Actually, everyone goes better when the interests and the vision and the efforts are aligned, and engagement is a really strong and powerful way to do that.
Michelle, Sophia wants to ask a question of you and it is, is the audit a quantitative survey with items concerning each of the 10 risk areas and how long after implementation phase do you evaluate the outcomes and how often are the factors that supported successful risk management evaluated?
Thanks for the question. Yeah, it's actually what's called a behaviourally anchored rating scale. So in the kind of notes for this event, you can find a link to the research that's developed, the Risk Audit tool. So, it's a little bit different to a normal survey. What we did instead was created one scale for each of those 10 areas and with some indicators of the sorts of things that normally happen in a work environment and that guides workers as to where they make their selection on that survey scale. So, we take that risk audit in and then, yeah, within... know, in a few weeks, we want to have that conversation. So, this is kind of building on the answer that Nick gave before. People will participate in a survey or risk audit process when they think that there's going to be some meaningful action. So, they need to really believe that we're going to do something with these results. So, you don't want to leave it too long to actually start to have the conversations and the brainstorming and the co-design around the results. We've followed up organisations then six or nine months later. One prison that I worked in, they shared their baseline data with me over three years and then shared the following two years' worth of data to show that you can actually achieve the same change. So, you can start to see the results pretty quickly when you have this kind of systematic, proactive risk management process as early as two or three months after, you know, starting this work. And then, yeah, as I mentioned, I've evaluated that right up to nine months and even two years to actually show those positive changes.
Jenny joined us today and she used the Q&A section to ask, "Beyond those included in the delegate booklet, "is there a white paper or resource of your work, Michelle?"
I've got some reports available online and perhaps I can share those links as well. But if you look at Analysis and Policy Observatory or APO online, you can find some reports of the work we've done analysing those work health and safety cases, which might be helpful too.
Nicole wants to know, "Any strategies you have heard of "that work well in terms of supporting vulnerable workers "who may be at greater risk, for example, young workers?"
Yeah, that's really important. And I think co-design has a good role to play here. We've often used a half-a-day workshop, but that doesn't work for everyone to feel confident and safe in speaking up. So, if you can have participation and engagement mechanisms that have some opportunities for anonymous or confidential participation, that might be through a survey platform, it could be through a suggestion box or other things like that. I think for workers who are vulnerable an worried or fearful about the outcomes of speaking up, really giving them confidential ways to have meaningful input is a really important step. Until they start to feel safe enough, when people get the idea that this really is about making positive changes to the work environment and our leaders are really serious about this, they do start to open up. And in that process I've talked about, that typically comes at that solution stage. People still might be a little bit sceptical when they're collecting survey data, but when you get them in a room and you have that solution space focused, you frame it up about improving systems of work, that starts to build a sense of safety and a sense of hope that things can start to change around here. Then you've got to carry it through into actions. And when people see the actions happening as well, that unlocks further safety, particularly for the vulnerable workers to get involved in this process. Nick, a question without notice. How do the stats stack up from your point of view about identifying the young or vulnerable workers and just how at risk are they?
Well, I think I'll call back to Michelle's point earlier about power dynamics and say that, well, typically younger workers are more junior in the organisation and therefore are vulnerable from that perspective. In terms of the data I've seen, there's a larger range of responses. So while the average is quite low, there's a very broad range of experiences across diverse organisations. Younger workers are less likely to have, you know, experience in navigating the workplace and perhaps even advocating for themselves. So, the hope is that with support from organisations who understand psychosocial risk management and practice as well, that they can have a decent voice at the table and be involved in changing norms for the better.
And for each of you, firstly, I'll go to Nick because you've got the platform right now. Anything that came out of poor that surprised you, Nick?
Lots of interesting tidbits which we're running some further analyses on going forward. I think I was surprised that the rate was so high. My hypothesis was that organisations engaging in psychosocial risk management tools would, in fact, be a bit more proactive on the scale and there are many organisations who haven't yet engaged with these tools. So, it was quite a surprise to me to see that those rates were so high, even in organisations who are motivated to engage in this.
And one last question for you, Michelle, to bring us home. How would you recommend educating staff on what is not bullying? For example, reasonable management action can be seen as bullying if viewed through the recipient lens.
Yeah, I think it starts with conversations. So, I think that's an important thing about having a bullying policy. It might provide some examples, but what's considered bullying can differ in different contexts depending on the organisational and occupational environment. So, for me, it would be having a realistic conversation with your staff to talk about not just bullying, but position bullying behaviour in amongst all sorts of behaviour that we see in the workplace. So bullying is something that's happened systematically and over time and often escalates in that time. But we really want to consider a one-off episode amongst a broader spectrum of behaviour. So, it's conversations, it's widening the frame and returning to what we do want to see and making sure we've got those consultation and involvement mechanisms that help us get there.
In wrapping up, thank you, Michelle, and thank you, Nick, for being part of this fantastic livestream.
Thank you. Thank you. And thank you to everyone who joined us today. We hope you've learned something valuable, some great take-home information to help protect the psychological health of workers in your workplace. As always, we would like you to provide us with a bit of feedback. Can I ask you to scan the QR code that's on your screen at the moment and complete our short and anonymous survey? Your feedback is so important to help us evaluate the program and obviously inform planning for future events. And while we're giving you some direction, how about checking out the website,, for other livestream events happening during Mental Health Week 2023. For more information on support services that are available, please visit the sites that are up on your screen and in the chat box. There are a number of those organisations that you are able to contact, or you can put members of your staff in contact with that may be in need of help and support. On behalf of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, thanks for joining us for our Workplace Bullying livestream. It is part of Mental Health Week 2023. As always, work safe, home safe. See you soon.