Much has been made of recent scandals arising from sexual relationships in the workplace and in most cases the relationships are said to have been ‘personal and consensual’. While not a new issue, we have seen changes to the way organisations have responded to the relationships, perhaps as a reflection that our culture is less accepting of the conduct.

Is it ever appropriate for a senior executive to conduct a sexual relationship with a workplace colleague, whether they are an employee, a representative of a client or customer, contractor or consultant to the business?
Continue Reading Is a workplace relationship ever consistent with good governance

It is an indisputable fact that women are not equally represented in leadership roles or management positions in Australian companies and governments, not even close. Even in 2016, this is the case in almost all arenas of business and politics and is most certainly a global issue, although Australia even appears to lag in this indicator among developed nations. This flows through to an under-representation of women on boards of directors of Australian public companies. Earlier this year consultant Conrad Liveris found that there were fewer women in CEO and chair roles in ASX 200 companies than there were men named either John, Peter or David in such roles. What an alarming statistic! In this note we consider whether this under-representation is caused by a failure to recognise that women as much as men are able to achieve and sustain appropriate business outcomes and conclude that this is a matter that good corporate governance can resolve.
Continue Reading A perspective on the unequal representation of women in leadership

The Victorian Supreme Court recently issued a stunning decision awarding an employee over $600,000 comprising $210,000 for pain and suffering and the balance for lost past and future income, despite the employee having a significant pre-existing psychiatric illness and a finding that no bullying had occurred.  
Continue Reading Damages in bullying claims – the stakes are rising even higher

The stakes are risingIn the world of anti-discrimination law awards of money against employers for psychiatric injury or illness caused by sexual harassment by one of their employees have been rare and low, typically in the range of $12,000 to $20,000. Similarly, the anti-bullying jurisdiction of the Fair Work Commission has seen limited orders made to prevent further bullying where claims have been made, and compensation is not available as a remedy for bullying behavior.

But things are changing, especially in the area of sexual harassment where awards of damages for psychiatric illness are increasing. This reflects change in societal attitude towards this type of conduct that has (finally) started to be reflected in judicial pronouncements.

The spectrum of mental harm that can be experienced by victims of sexual harassment or bullying covers depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) any of which can be debilitating for a significant period.

Continue Reading Damages in sexual harassment and bullying claims – the stakes are rising

EyeWhen it comes to managing bullying in the workplace, the focus tends to be on dealing with the bullying behaviour after it has occurred or at least after the bully has started work. But are there ways to stop bullies from being recruited in the first place?

One place to start is screening during recruitment. There are certain personalities who deliberately inflict harm or lack the ability to understand the harm they are doing to others. These personalities fall within a category that psychologists call the ‘Dark Triad’ which comprises three sub-personalities: Machiavellianism, sub-clinical narcissism and sub-clinical psychopathy.
Continue Reading Screening for psychopaths – managing the front end of workplace bullying

The NSW work health and safety regulator has brought a successful prosecution against a company director resulting in a criminal conviction and fines against the director and the company. An order was also made requiring the director to pay the costs of the prosecution. It appears that this is the first such successful prosecution under the harmonised Federal safety legislation in NSW. However, the fines imposed in this case ($15,000 against the director and $150,000 against the company) were low given the specific circumstances of the case.
Continue Reading Director prosecution and conviction in New South Wales

As this year’s public company reporting season comes to a close, the following trends in executive remuneration across various industries stand out:

  • Modest or nil increases in fixed remuneration for executives with some companies electing not to increase fixed remuneration for the third consecutive year;
  • Increases in short term incentive deferral practices and/or other changes

Bullying behaviour comes in all shapes and sizes.  Identifying and deciding how to respond to diverse bullying behaviour by a worker (or workers) can create challenges for employers.

Recent headlines have cautioned that unfriending on Facebook could be considered bullying. That this seemingly innocuous action has been elevated to “bullying” has been the subject of many concerned water-cooler discussions since hitting the mainstream press.
Continue Reading Death threats and unfriending – what is bullying?