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New Zealand the world’s second worst workplace bully?

Bullying & HarassmentNovember 4, 2016

New Zealand the world’s second worst workplace bully?

An alarming new study has been released which shows that New Zealand has the world second highest rate of workplace bullying. The survey, which was administered to 1,700 people, found that one in five New Zealand workers had experienced workplace bullying. This is a staggering amount, and something which you as an employer, have the responsibility to act on in your business.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, employers are responsible for identifying and controlling hazards which could be harmful to their staff and can face fines of up to $500,000 and two years’ imprisonment for failing to provide for the safety of their workers. This includes reacting to and eliminating the chances of one of your workers suffering at the hands of a bully.

What is considered bullying?

To minimise instances of workplace bullying, employers must first be able to identify it and this can be tough as bullying is not always clear cut. Bullying may occur directly or indirectly.

Examples of direct bullying include:

  • belittling comments, ridiculing, public humiliation
  • physical attacks
  • intimidation, including verbal abuse
  • unwanted sexual advances
  • theft or destruction of property
  • persistent criticism
  • intrusion on privacy, such a being spied on or stalked

Examples of indirect bullying include:

  • consistently being given unreasonable tasks
  • being given tasks that undermine a person’s ability
  • withholding or concealing information
  • lack of credit for work done or credit being stolen
  • exclusion or isolation
  • hints or threats relating to job security
  • unjustified disciplinary hearings
  • reduction of opportunities for expression such as constantly being talked over or interrupted

Workplace bullying can occur in a variety of ways, including via email, social media, text messages or phone calls. In some instances, workplace bullying will not take place inside normal working hours and may be directed at a single worker or a group of workers.

What are the repercussions of workplace bullying?

Bullying can have a prolonged and lasting effect on a person, including post-traumatic stress disorder, low self-esteem, high levels of anxiety and difficulties sleeping.

According to WorkSafe New Zealand people who have experienced bullying within the last five years (but are no longer being bullied) still report worse health results than those who have never been bullied.

People who have witnessed bullying, but were not the recipient of the bullying behaviour, are also known to experience negative health effects. As well as reporting high levels of anxiety, witnesses also often suffer the same long lasting symptoms as the bullying victim.

 Not only does bullying affect workers physically and mentally but it can also have a huge impact on a business’s productivity and overall culture. The effects of bullying on a workplace can include, but are not limited to:

  • a decrease in employee health and wellbeing
  • high levels of staff absenteeism
  • a decrease in employee motivation, productivity and performance
  • diminished company reputation

What is not considered bullying?

It is important for both employers and employees to remember that discipline, demotion or termination may seem unfair however if these carry justifiable reasoning, they should not be considered workplace bullying. Bullying claims often arise around these practices if correct procedures are not followed or reasoning is not justified.

A single incident of unreasonable behaviour is generally not considered workplace bullying, however, should always be addressed so as not to escalate.

How can employers avoid bullying in their workplace?

As mentioned above, employers carry a legal responsibility to provide a safe workplace for their employees. All employees have the right to be free from violence, harassment and any kind of bullying in the workplace, and employers can minimise the chances of workplace bullying occurring by:

  • ensuring a clear anti-bullying policy is in place and communicated to all employees
  • conduct regular training and reviews on the business’s anti-bullying policies
  • provide regular training to all employees and managers on how to identify and respond to bullying
  • monitor all employee behaviour and encourage all managers to have an ‘open door policy’
  • ensure all allegations of bullying are taken seriously, treated confidentially and responded to in a timely manner

It is important that all employees and employers are aware of what constitutes bullying, and how to address it if it occurs in the workplace. Bullying and harassment is a sensitive topic that needs to be handled with the utmost care to ensure you are adhering to your employer obligations.

If you have any questions relating to workplace bullying or need advice regarding an instance of bullying in your workplace, contact Employsure today on 0800 675 700. We can offer tailored advice to your business to ensure you are meeting your employment obligations.

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