How to avoid employing a workplace bully ?


At Quay Appointments’ last networking seminar last week, Keryl Egan clinical psychologist and Joseph Catanzariti vice president of the fair work commission presented on how to manage Workplace Bullying. The seminar provided a unique psychological and a legal perspective on this difficult to manage problem.

Keryl and Joseph are the co-authors of the book workplace bullying – an essential guide, with practical advice for lawyers and HR professionals on how to handle such situations.

Joseph outlined how such matters have been handled by Fair Work since changes to the Fair Work Act in 2013 created the power for the Commission to deal with workplace bullying matters. Keryl explored the psychological and personality factors which lead to bullying behaviour.

How do you recognise traits of those predisposed to bully behaviour during the recruitment process and avoid recruiting a bully in the first place?

No one is going to display bullying behaviour during the recruitment process and will try to cover their tracks, but with some good skilful questioning and some careful listening a lot can be learned in interview about the candidate is likely to behave in a role.

In particular, check for consistency by asking the same key questions a number of times in different ways. For example, when it comes to the reason for leaving a previous position, most candidates will have one answer prepared and be able to quickly think of a second one. Asking for a third time will may reveal the true reason if it was being hidden.


  • Concentrate on questions such as ‘what do you when..’ or ‘how do you handle that…
  • Reflect on values and attitudes, and on what they feel they will they be bringing to the organisation
  • Tease out what problems have they had with managers or colleagues in the past
  • Look at how they present themselves on their social media profile and Linked in, or at what are they saying on twitter
  • When reference checking, ask the referee to give you examples to support their comments regarding good or poor behaviour. Seek to learn about their relationships with their colleagues, particularly with those who they were supervising.

An emotional intelligence profile with a proper debrief is also great addition to the process.

It is worthwhile remembering that a workplace bully can injure your or lose your best staff, damage your workplace culture and seriously cost you in productivity. Workplace bullies can also be very clever at hiding their activities from their managers and once you realise you have a problem it can be tricky to prove it. It is all the more reason to try to avoid the problem in the first place.


Winsome Bernard.

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