Normally I would refer to proposals such as the ones being considered in Australia as "Nanny State" regulation, but this doesn't even rise to that ignominious level. No, this is pure Sissy State stuff.
Safe Work Australia has outlined a draft code of practice designed to address bullying in the workplace. These codes would be admissible in court cases, and would allow for employees to collect workers' comp when they are victims of workplace meanies and bad, bad men.
To say these rules are broad would be a blatant understatement. In fact, they are designed to mirror the national code of the federal public service policy on bullying, which even prohibits "eye-rolling responses" that might "diminish a person's dignity". We are not talking about your basic good natured office based toilet dunking swirly; No, they are looking at a broad swath of evil and inappropriate behavior.
Some other beauties in this proposal?
Workers left idle or underutilized may be able to file for workers' compensation, as the code lists "not providing enough work" as a form of "indirect bullying".
Also in the "indirect bullying" category; a manager who constantly changes deadlines or sets timelines that are difficult to achieve may trigger such a claim.
Employers are advised to ban pranks and discourage "exclusive clubs or cliques", so workers are not "ostracized" by colleagues.
My favorite part is that Safe Work Australia cannot actually use the words "bully" or "victim" in their proposed rules, having been forced to remove them from an earlier version of its draft code after objections from WorkCover, the state comp agency. WorkCover felt that the terms would "label" people. The latest draft instead reads that people who behave in such a manner might be "unintentional" bullies.
That is much nicer. I would rather be known as an unintentional bully; a person too stupid to know that their behavior is evil, hurtful and beneath contempt. In essence, an unintentional bully is a victim of a system that has clearly failed them. Of course, it just might be that the unintentional bully was just trying to do his stupid job, and is working with a bunch of namby pamby, thumb sucking pantywaists.
This is beautiful. They ban bullying in the workplace, making it a compensable event, but cannot label the bully as a bully, because it is apparently a hurtful and bullying thing to do. I suppose the unintentional bully could then go out on workers' comp as well, having been victimized by a mean and vicious label. At this rate it won't be long before the whole country is sitting at home pouting and waiting for a check.
Employers are understandably pushing back on this moronic idea. Mark Goodsell, a representative of the Australian Industry Group who serves on the board of Safe Work Australia, said, "Every time something happens that an employee doesn't like - including reasonable and necessary and constructive criticism and performance management - they will say they feel bullied." Goodsell also believes that employers will start paying "go-away money" to avoid court cases.
Implementation of the code has been delayed while a parliamentary inquiry into bullying is conducted. I'm sure the people who developed this code feel that Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who ordered the delay, is a mean spirited, albeit unintentional, bully. They probably are all home on leave, awaiting their first comp checks.
I must say, I am truly disappointed. I have never been to Australia, but have long felt a strong affinity for the Aussie population. My mental image of them is that of a rough and tumble lot, working and playing hard; enjoying life and living large. I never once envisioned them as whiny, effeminate sissies.
I am left to wonder, at what point does an employers responsibility for an employees health, well being and happiness end? I am not a proponent of workplace bullying, and do not support such behavior in any way, but these draconian restrictions strike me as absurd. At some point we have a responsibility for our own lives, and there are other remedies available to us when confronted with a real, rather than imagined, office bully. I am reminded of one of the best solutions when I think of an old Cheech & Chong skit, when a judge portrayed in the skit says, "Bailiff, whack his pee-pee".
Seems like a perfectly reasonable and efficient method with which to deal with workplace bullies, unintentional or otherwise. Unless, of course, you live in the ultimate sissy state.
Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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