Inappropriate emails between colleagues can create psychologically unsafe workplaces

Edge Legal

22 July 2022

Now more than ever it is important for employers to ensure that their workplaces are safe from not just physical but psychological harm as well. Part of this includes monitoring communication between staff members and reminding employees that ‘venting’ frustration to another colleague is not a ‘free pass’ to make inappropriate and denigrating comments about other employees – even to their managers.

Work emails form part of the workplace

In a recent decision (available here) an employee’s dismissal was upheld on the basis of emails that he had sent to his manager complaining about other employees were denigrating, homophobic and humiliating. The NSW IR Commission in holding that the dismissal was not unfair, stated that while these comments were never meant to be shared with the wider workplace, “by committing the comments to writing, there was always a risk they’d be discovered.” They further stated that these messages were evidence of a negative culture and psychologically unsafe workplace, finding that the worker had breached the Code of Conduct by failing to promise a positive work environment. 

Steps to a more respectful workplace 

  • train your staff in DISC or other ‘profiling’ tool so that they can understand different communication styles and adjust their behaviour accordingly

  • have real conversations with your staff about what IS and what is NOT appropriate workplace behaviour (take the ‘guess work’ out of it),

  • provide realistic avenues for people to get their grievances ‘sorted out’ at the lowest possible level – too much formality usually kills off an effective outcome;

  • focus people towards genuine resolution as the outcome – not on punishment or process

    Edge Legal
    Relationships.  Respect.  Results

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