Workplace bullying is a serious issue that can adversely affect employees and the overall atmosphere in a workplace. However, not all claims are necessarily justified. The recent case of Launceston City Mission Inc offers some crucial insights into handling sensitive workplace situations involving mental health.
The case revolves around a casual and volunteer worker who lodged bullying claims against the Human Resources (HR) manager and other managers of Launceston City Mission Inc. The worker’s claims followed concerns he raised about his usual shifts being given to a new employee, which allegedly resulted in being labelled as “unreliable” and “unwilling to do extra work” by the warehouse manager.
Key Takeaways from the Case
- Compassion and Understanding in Managing Workplace Issues: Commissioner Tim Lee lauded the HR manager’s show of compassion towards the worker who was struggling with depression. The manager not only apologized on behalf of the organization but also ensured that past issues would not affect future performance reviews, thus providing the employee a “clean slate”.
- Effective Management Training: The HR manager decided to provide performance management training for the warehouse manager and additional training for all social enterprise managers to better deal with people with mental illness.
- The Importance of Reasonable Management Action: When the worker allegedly made comments that sounded threatening and showed up at the premises despite being relocated, City Mission took reasonable management action by issuing a warning and moving him to a different site. This decision was based on Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) concerns and the comfort of fellow workers.
- Insight Into Employee Behaviour: Commissioner Lee noted that understanding the prism of the worker’s depression was essential when evaluating the situation. The worker’s lack of insight into his own behaviour was considered a concern.
- Validation of Concerns of Co-workers: Commissioner Lee found clear evidence that the worker’s colleagues had legitimate concerns about working with him again. He held that City Mission had responded reasonably to these concerns.
Implications for Employers and Employees
This case underlines the importance of empathetic and reasonable management practices in the workplace. Employers should ensure that managers are properly trained to handle sensitive issues, particularly those involving mental health. Equally important is the need for employees to maintain appropriate conduct, even when navigating through personal struggles.
For employers, it is also vital to create a workplace where every individual feels safe. If an employee exhibits behaviour that causes concern among co-workers, reasonable steps should be taken to ensure everyone’s safety, as demonstrated by City Mission’s response.
Lastly, the Launceston City Mission Inc case highlights the importance of seeing employees’ actions through the lens of their personal circumstances, as these can significantly influence their behaviour and perceptions at work.
In conclusion, while workplace bullying is an issue that must be addressed seriously, it’s important to consider all aspects of the situation. The intersection of mental health and workplace dynamics is complex, requiring careful, compassionate handling, as evidenced by this case.