Bullying is not just a schoolyard problem

Written by John Brosnan, Human Resources Adviser. 

To often, we see articles in the newspapers and stories on the news, about children of all ages being bullied.

Most parents would do anything possible to stop their child being at risk of a bully and rightly so. But, this very unpleasant social behaviour is not confined to just the schoolyard.

It is a real problem for adults within the workforce as well, and make no mistake, bullying is not limited to being just the employer or males. I have personally helped employers who have been bullied by staff members of various ages and genders.

A few years ago the government defined bullying as “repeated behaviour which is unreasonable and creates a risk to health and safety” and this behaviour typically takes the form of intimidation, belittling remarks, ignoring and/or excluding the target, and setting the target up to fail.

WorkSafe also issued it’s ‘Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying Best Practice guidelines’ which also took workplace bullying from just an employment issue across into a Health & Safety issue as well.

Bullying now has employer responsibilities under the Health & Safety in Employment Act. The effect of this is that the employer will have to prove they took all practical steps to prevent bullying.

What is more significant is that the employer could face tougher sanctions under Health & Safety breaches if complaints are laid via that avenue, and this could result in large fines and even imprisonment – on the higher end of the scale.

So how do we avoid this issue?
We ensure our workplace culture has a zero tolerance of bullying.

Ensure that you cover workplace values in your interview and orientation process.  Add the values against bullying into your Health & Safety meetings so you discuss them like any other hazard management.

Ensure you create safe systems for anyone to seek help through if they feel they are being bullied – and then follow through on all such complaints. Reiterate that business functions after hours do not change the expectations on acceptable behaviour.

As an employer, you do not want to deal with personal grievance complaints.  When everyone knows the clear expectations on matters, then you are less likely to have to.

If you have any questions or concerns around this, or any other employment issue, then give me a call.

 

 

 

John Brosnan
Human Resources Adviser
CooperAitken Accountants
john@cooperaitken.co.nz
DDI 07 889 8838