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Last week Cara Waters headed her column “Massive influx of Bullying Claims expected” Now I know her job is to get people reading with sensational headlines –  however I think a more apt headline is “Be Alert Not Alarmed”.

Megan [RedBalloon Employee Experience Manager] – arranged for a presentation from our workplace lawyers prior to the last RedBalloon board meeting. This is very much a part of our responsibilities as directors – and we don’t need to wait for legislation to ensure that we are doing the right thing.

Like all business risks director and business owner need to take the lead on this. Directors are responsibility under the Corporations Act 2001 for:

  • Care and diligence – to act with the degree of care and diligence that a reasonable person might be expected to show in the role
  • Good faith – to act in good faith in the best interests of the company and for a proper purpose
  • Improper use of position – to not improperly use their position to gain an advantage for themselves or someone else or to the detriment to the company
  • Improper use of information – to not improperly use the information they gain in the course of their director duties to gain an advantage

So really if we are acting properly with care and diligence – all should be okay. I know as a director that I must ensure that beyond doubt I have personally done everything I can to ensure that my team are safe at work (complying with Occupational Health and Safety director obligations) – the new bullying legislation will provide the same onus on directors.

As leaders doing a few simple things in preparation will keep our people safe, our brand safe and reduce the likelihood of claims.

The point is stuff happens in business – and we are dealing with people’s many and varied personalities.

At RedBalloon we love being ‘famous’ for being a great work place. I believe one of the reasons we have achieved this is because we have shared values. This goes along way to creating mutual respect in the workplace.

As a leadership team we are committed to people coming to work every day able to do their best work. Despite this RedBalloon is at risk as much as any other business.

What happens if a bullying claim is made at RedBalloon? First of all we don’t panic – we have done the preparation – directors trained. The CEO goes straight to our policy – and follows it.

As the new laws role out there is no need worry if you stay vigilant to the issue – and acknowledge it can happen in ANY business at ANY time.

  1. Do you have a strategy, policy, or process documented?
  2. Are potential areas of concern identified? (eg we have a policy about providing alcohol at work functions – because risky situations can also occur when coworkers are at work functions.)
  3. Are the leadership team and the directors informed – educated and committed to the process?
  4. Are the policies and processes shared with all leaders?
  5. Do employees know what to do if they have a grievance?
  6. Is there an independent ‘hot line’ employees can call (if they feel that they are unable to speak to someone internally – including HR)
  7. At what point is an issue escalated to either an internal or independent investigation?
  8. Is the employee kept informed and made to feel safe at all times?
  9. Are disciplinary actions taken quickly and effectively if required?

Here’s the good news – like so many HR practices there are experts who work in this area, who assist in designing policies, identifying risk areas, hotline and investigations services (Licensed investigators may well be needed – cases have been thrown out of court because the investigators were not licensed to conduct them).

Much of what I learned came from the research and work Risk to Business does.

Take the Workplace Risk Audit – see how your business fairs – maybe you are already on the right track…



Reader Interactions


  1. Workplace bullies often act just under the radar, denying their hostile intent or shrugging off their behaviors as humorous or insignificant. Yet, the constant tension they create—and the way their harmful activities tend to build over time—not only damages the individual targets of their behavior but also the workgroup as a whole. That’s why you need to bring bullying out into the open. So you can deal with it directly and put an end to it

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