Start-ups not immune to workplace bullying

Start-up owners need to take a stand against workplace bullying if they want their businesses to succeed, according to HR experts.


Martin Nally, managing director of hranywhere, and Vicki Crowe, MD of Canon Recruitment, say that start-ups are not immune to workplace bullying, and it can cost businesses if not tackled.


The comments come after a report from the Queensland Workplace Rights Ombudsman found hundreds of people continue to complain about bullying and harassment.


Commissioner Don Brown says managers are failing to “stamp out” the behaviour, forcing employees to take drastic measures such as going on sick leave and even resigning.


According to Nally, what constitutes bullying is open to interpretation, which makes it tricky for employers, particularly start-ups.


“If someone feels bullied or harassed, then they are… It’s really up to the individual how they feel and that’s a really important distinction to make,” Nally says.


“Small businesses don’t have the rigour nor do they probably have the focus upon workplace standards.”


“They do run the risk of being seen to be bullying when they’re probably just putting people under pressure to get things done.”


“No matter what the size of the organisation, the responsibility – on the manager, the owner, the entrepreneur – is to mitigate the risk to the organisation.”


Crowe says workplace bullying can seriously impact on the success of a business, citing staff absenteeism and turnover, litigation and low morale as some of the side effects.


“I’ve worked with people who are being bullied by bosses in very small businesses – say, under 15 people. In a small business, you’re usually in a small office and there’s nowhere to go,” she says.


“The repercussions for those people are huge. They’re seeing psychologists, they don’t want to go to work, they’re on antidepressants, and they try to avoid the bully in the workplace, which affects workflow.”


Crowe says the only way to tackle workplace bullying is with performance management and making people aware of their actions.


“A lot of people in small businesses don’t performance manage their people as quickly as they should because they’re not used to having to step in,” she says.


“If you don’t feel comfortable in managing performance, get an external person in who can professionally manage workplace behaviour.”


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