The lack of a uniform data collection model or process - both within organisations and on a wider scale - is a common barrier to recording and reporting workplace bullying, according to an expert in the area.
Bernie Althofer, managing director of EGL I Assessments, said that workplace bullying is a contentious issue, and as such, some organisations would prefer to avoid acknowledging it openly.
"It also appears that by putting a cost on the subject, it could be seen as an admission of guilt, opening the flood gates to litigation," he said.
Given the often significant financial costs of bullying, Althofer said executive officers need to know how much of their limited resources are being diverted into reactive processes associated with bullying.
Speaking at the recent Queensland Safety Conference, Althofer said getting hard data is problematic when systems and processes do not allow, support or encourage reporting of all incidents - no matter how small they may seem.
It is a normal business practice to expect a return on investment, so analysing the costs and benefits associated with a workplace bullying program is important, he said.
"The inability to justify how the monies will be spent and the changes to be made in the workplace may be difficult to qualify," said Althofer, a former police officer, workplace health and safety representative, harassment referral officer and union representative.
"However, decision makers generally only have a specific amount of discretionary spending with which to play. In some situations, playing the legal obligations as a trump card might need to be considered."
As a health and safety practitioner or line manager seeking approval for "proactive and preventive funding" he also said personal appeals can be more attractive and can actually facilitate decision-making.
"Detailed reports containing meaningless data have to be converted into practical language that executives know and understand," said Althofer.
While presenting business cases that include starting from scratch can meet with considerable resistance, learning to speak the language of decision makers and understanding their priorities can assist.
He said this can "help create environments, where if the initiative is not immediately funded, the seeds can be sown for future approval".