Bullying in the workplace
While bullying in the work place is recognized as a work place hazard, workplace bullying is not defined in legislaiton.
Worksafe New Zealand and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) describe workplace bullying as repeated unreasonable behavior, directed towards a worker or workers which creates a risk to health and safety.
Workplace bullying can be categorized as personal attacks or task related attacks. Personal attacks, as the phrase suggests is behavior that is directed at the individual.
Some examples of personal attack behaviours include:
- Ignoring the individual and other isolating behaviours
- Yelling or shouting at the individual
- Criticising the individual persistently and or doing this in public
- Verbal abuse
- Belittling behavior such as ridiculing, insulting, teasing and making jokes about the individual.
Some examples of Task related workplace bullying behaviours include:
- Giving tasks which are unachievable, and or meaningless
- Setting the individual up to fail
- Changing targets (shifting the goal posts)
- Providing incorrect information
- Unreasonable or inappropriate monitoring
It is important to address bullying in the workplace as such behavior impacts on the health and wellbeing of employees, affects staff morale and workplace productivity. If you think you are being bullied in the workplace find out what work place policies and procedures are in place. There may be a policy or procedure on how to deal with bullying behavior.
If you believe you are being bullied it may be useful to keep a record of the behaviours in question. This could be in the form of a diary. Any records kept should include how you felt as a result of the behaviours and how you responded. Descriptions of the behavior should be as objective and accurate as possible.
If you feel you are being bullied you can address the person who is allegedly carrying out the bullying behavior directly. In this situation it is important to address specific incidences and focus on the behavior. Because of the very nature of the problem, it may be easier to raise the issue with your immediate superior.
Before deciding to respond, Worksafe New Zealand suggests a number of things to consider. These include what you want the outcome to be, your role in the situation (have you contributed in any way), consequences of any response by you and possible responses to the issues you raise, from your superior.
There is a legal obligation under the Employment Relations Act 2000 (ERA) for parties to an employment relationship to deal with each other in good faith. This requires the parties (employers and employees) to be active and constructive in establishing and maintaining a productive employment relationship. If an issue of bullying arises in the workplace, this may be a breach of this obligation if the employer does not address the issue satisfactorily. In order for employers to address any issues of possible bullying they must first be made aware of the situation.
Information in this article has been adapted from Worksafe New Zealand’s publication “Bullying – Preventing and responding to workplace bullying”. For further information go to www.business.govt.nz/worksafe
If you are concerned that you are being bullied in the workplace, Community Law Marlborough can help. Call (03) 577 9919 for an appointment, or alternatively drop by 14 Market Street to speak with a case worker.