Bullying or Coaching? What’s the Difference?


Of recent there have been a growing number of serious complaints on bosses bullying their employees. But questions were raised whether it was in fact bulling or managers just doing their jobs.

If your manager asks to speak with you and says you need to improve your performance, are you being bullied or are you being coached? At one 4000-person organisation there were two to three complaints being filed per week. Managers may believe their approach to coaching and managing their employees are acceptable but workers may read it as bullying.

According to Australian Workplace Barometer, 6.8 per cent of staff say they have been bullied in the past 6months and each case has cost employers $17,000 – $24,000 in direct and indirect costs.

Bullying is defined behaviour that is repeated, systematic and is intended to victimise, humiliate, undermine or threaten. Given this, there really should be no confusion between receiving feedback and bullying. However, these so call feedback conversations have become some what tricky. Managers will avoid them wherever possible. They chose to avoid these conversations for fear of being subjected to a bullying complaint.

Managers will often ignore the problem or pass it onto the Human Resources department to deal with the problem. But as most would agree the best way to handle any problem with a manager and their team is for managers to speak directly with the employee.

Employees making false allegations can have huge implications on the managers or person who are subjected to them. So it comes as no surprise that managers are increasingly wary of sparking a confrontation.

When providing feedback to an employee on their performance rather than making critical statements, managers should focus on drawing out the employee with questions;

  • How do you think you are going?
  • Do you believe you are delivering your best?
  • Do you have all the resources you need to perform your tasks?

Nothing discussed in the meeting should come as a surprise to the employee. Performance reviews should take place every 6 months and this is not the time to bring to attention a new problem with the employee. Feedback conversations should take place regularly to keep employees on track with their work.

In a meeting, rather than making accusatory statements, the manager should focus on drawing out the employee with questions: “How do you think you are going?”, “Have their been any issues in the broader environment that have prevented you from doing your best?”, “Do you have all the resources you need to do your job?”

Labour Solutions Australia



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Labour Solutions Australia Pty Ltd specialises in temporary, permanent and outsourced workforce solutions with a strong focus on Food Processing, Civil and Building Construction, Mining and Engineering, Transport and Logistics, Manufacturing and Agribusiness staffing needs.

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