When there’s a bully in the workplace, the best performing workers will often be the first out the door, according to a Sunshine Coast workplace bullying expert.

Natalie Thomasen of Maroochydore investigation firm, Synergy Workplace Investigations said leaving a bully to continue their behaviour unchecked can have a profound impact on the talent base of a business, creating an environment where the best workers tend to leave in favour of greener pastures.

“The best qualified and most experienced employees know they don’t have to tolerate disrespectful and inappropriate behaviour because they have other options,” said Ms Thomasen.

“These employees are often highly qualified and experienced with a great work ethic and effective networks so they can more easily find alternative employment if their current job becomes untenable.”

Having conducted dozens of workplace bullying investigations, Ms Thomasen said she had noticed a strong correlation between bullying and the loss of important talent within a business.

“In the course of investigating bullying complaints, nine times out of 10, I will be told about past employees who have resigned because of the perpetrator. These people are often described as valuable team members who were an asset to the business.

“These star performers don’t see any point in going through a stressful grievance process when they can simply leave today and drop straight in to a better position tomorrow.”

Ms Thomasen said she had observed that workplace bullies were often themselves seen by management as top performers who could deliver on stated objectives and, for this reason, senior management tended to ignore negative feedback about the person’s interpersonal interactions.

“One of the most common things I see when conducting investigations, is where senior management has long been aware of the person’s shortcomings in terms of their interactions with others but have chosen to sweep it under the carpet because the perpetrator is performing at a high standard.

“The problem with this approach is that while a bully might be able to generate positive results in the short term, over time, they tend to create team dysfunction and their long-term impact on a workplace can be costly.”

Ms Thomasen said, by the time formal complaints are received, productivity is often decreased, staff turnover is high, staff are seeing psychologists and excellent people have been lost.

She said organisations should always take complaints of bullying seriously, even if they were made informally, for example, through passing comments.

“Regardless of whether the bully is a top performer, there is a health and safety imperative for employers to act quickly on any sign of bullying in the workplace. When this sort of behaviour is allowed to go unchecked, the organisation is left exposed to many risks over time including costly psychological injury compensation claims and Stop Bullying Orders by the Fair Work Commission.”

Ms Thomasen says employers who wanted to know more about what kinds of behaviours amount to bullying and how to address bullying in the workplace should visit the Fair Work Commission web site for more information.