Half of Australia’s workers would rather quit than deal with workplace issues

Thursday, 30 August, 2012

Australian workers are fostering an ‘avoidance culture’ among employees, with 46% of people surveyed saying they would rather look for a new job than contend with a workplace issue, while 48% resort to taking days off when faced with a tough time at work, reveals a recent Australian Workplace Relationships Survey conducted by R U OK?.

The national survey, conducted in partnership with The Centre for Corporate Health, one of Australia’s workplace mental health service providers, also revealed that the ineffectiveness of Australian workplaces in dealing with difficult problems is having a detrimental effect on employee mental health and wellbeing.

The study of 1554 employees showed that workplace conflict, coupled with employee and manager relationship problems, could adversely affect employee mental health and wellbeing to the extent that many felt unequipped to address the issues and instead looked for support elsewhere to escape the stress.

The impact of a workplace avoidance culture

The survey also found that Australian managers lack the skills to hold meaningful and difficult conversations with their staff about their work and performance, while only half of employees surveyed felt they could talk to their colleagues or managers about personal issues at work.

An even larger majority of employees (82%) felt uncomfortable bringing up workplace problems with their human resources department, perhaps stemming from a reluctance to ‘formalise’ the problem. Two out of three employees surveyed were dissatisfied with their workplace’s management practices. For a large majority of the workforce, an individual’s ability to be emotionally resilient, to handle pressures and demands, and to bounce back from adversity was low.

When workplace issues are not resolved they can lead to workplace conflict and the onset of mental illness, said Rachel Clements, co-founder and Director of Psychological Services of the Centre for Corporate Health.

“We know that once a workplace conflict occurs and if it is not dealt with quickly and appropriately, there is a much higher chance of employees developing psychological problems at work. The aim of this report is to offer workplaces ways to address this widespread issue,” she said.

Helping workplaces to boost employee resilience

Janina Nearn, CEO of R U OK? Foundation, the organisation behind R U OK? Day, the national suicide prevention campaign, said workplaces need to understand the important role they can play in employee mental health and wellbeing, and how they can proactively stop little problems becoming bigger.

“Managers and employees need to feel confident in their ability to have meaningful conversations, as well as feel they can turn to someone for support when struggling with an issue impacting on their performance in the workplace,” she said. “The R U OK? at Work program encourages businesses to address seemingly small issues as they occur, so they don’t escalate into more serious issues.

“This research shows that if we are not willing to have or start these conversations, not only do we put employees’ mental health at risk, but it also costs the Australian workplace in terms of absenteeism, staff turnover, decreased performance and more workplace conflict.”

Key recommendations for managers, team members, individuals and HR practitioners can be found in the R U OK? Australian Workplace Relationships Survey. For free resources to support HR professionals, managers and employees with the identified issues, downloaded the R U OK? at Work program.

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