HR Leader logo
Stay connected.   Subscribe  to our newsletter

How employers can reduce bullying in the workplace

By Jack Campbell | |6 minute read
How employers can reduce bullying in the workplace

Jessica Hickman, founder and director of anti-bullying solutions company Bullyology, joined The HR Leader to give her expertise on how employers can prevent bullying.

Ms Hickman noted that bullying can often fly under the radar when other pressures are thrust upon a business. Taking the time to slow down can help identify issues within an organisation.

“Busyness can be an enemy to our success. When we’re constantly on that hamster wheel, expected to do more, achieve more, and be more, that pressure is felt across the individuals in the business and organisation,” said Ms Hickman.

“So, the first step … is just to stop, pause, and reflect. Look around the current environment. Observe some of the relationships and dynamics playing out. Observe how youre playing your part within the organisation. Are you open and receptive to others’ emotions, feelings, and sharing some of their struggles? Or are you quite short, blunt, busy, that you dont actually have opportunity to deepen rapport with colleagues?”


Ms Hickman said observation is important for ensuring employee wellbeing is being looked after, as you can identify and prevent incidents of bullying: “A great way to do this is to imagine yourself as an eagle ... Zoom over your organisations, and just document some of the things you observe on that day, or week, or month.”

Hand in hand with observation is the ability to listen to what your staff are telling you. Without hearing what your workforce has to say, you won’t know what they need to stay happy.

Ms Hickman explained: “Step number two, deepen your listening skills. I dont mean simply hearing the words your colleagues say, or the directions. But the conscious listening … The busier we get, and the more overwhelmed and stressed with life and work, the more were rushing in meetings.”

She said: “[Employers should be] sitting down and emptying all the beliefs, the ideas, and the dialogue, to simply connect deeper with your colleagues. What weve seemed to have slipped into as a culture, particularly leaders, is booking meetings back to back, without giving ourselves time just to decompress that information, and consciously listen to our colleagues and deepen that rapport without rushing from one task to the next.”

Ms Hickman continued: “So simply, put an opportunity or options in your calendar, to create a listening opportunity. [That may be] a listening tour, with no agenda other than just to listen to your people you work with, and your colleagues and peers, and see how that could shift your relationships, and the culture.”

Ms Hickman says that education is equally as important so problems can be identified correctly and dealt with in a professional manner.

“Step number three really is to learn. To learn about topics such as this. To lean into workplace culture, topics such as bullying, harassment, discrimination. Unless something sometimes impacts you, or you get in trouble as a leader, you dont necessarily lean into topics that are quite uncomfortable or roll them out within your organisation. There seems to be this culture of avoidance,” she said.

“I think that we all pick up bad habits, traits, beliefs, from working in organisations, good and bad. But also, as individuals. We are programmed with our language and beliefs from childhood, and I've found from talking to people, and doing research for the book, and my workshops, good people were getting in trouble for casual racism, sexism, or banter, which was becoming the enemy to success in the workplace,” explained Ms Hickman.

“I would encourage people to sit and have a reflection of some of your self-observations, about maybe some of the behaviours and beliefs that youve learned. What may be limiting your success? That can be unconscious bias.”

For more information about Ms Hickman’s work around bullying in the workplace, you can visit https://bullyology.com/ and https://jesshickman.com/

Note from the editor: If you’re currently experiencing any of the issues discussed in this podcast episode and would like to reach out for help, you may wish to contact Lifeline: www.lifeline.org.au

The transcript of this podcast episode, when quoted above, was slightly edited for publishing purposes. The full audio conversation with Jessica Hickman is below, and the original podcast article can be found here.



Harassment is defined as persistent behaviour or acts that intimidate, threaten, or uncomfortably affect other employees at work. Because of anti-discrimination laws and the Fair Work Act of 2009, harassment in Australia is prohibited on the basis of protected characteristics.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.