We hear about bullies in schools picking on vulnerable or isolated children. It might simple things as snubbing them in them games, or more overt acts such pushing and shoving, breaking property and ganging up on them. The acts are damaging to the child and the student starts to withdraw into their own world.
Sadly the same can be said for the workplace as well, particularly after a new survey came out showing the extent of the problem. There is no doubt about it: New Zealand has a culture of bullying in the work place that . It might be vulnerable staff, possibly new to their job and still finding their way or coming across as different or possibly simply someone who looked like they could be an easy target.
New Zealand has one of the highest rates of bullying in the workplace in the world. Some say it is partially because of a male “suck it up” attitude, but in instances where females have been the perpetrator it might possibly be because of perceptions that female staff would not indulge in that kind of behaviour. Just as there is a tendency to pay males more than females, there might also be a tendency to punish female bullies less than male staff. Misconceptions might also exist as to how the victim is supposed to react – do they complain at the risk of being told to harden up and be a man; do they play the “man” role and just suck it up?
It does not help that a state of apathy, or perhaps more accurately societal lethargy, about the issue exists. Even at Government level it has been found that apathy exists – is it really a problem; do people not care; it is a problem, but not ours – could all be attitudes prevalent in Ministries that might have a tangible impact on the issue.
As noted in the report, there are things we can do:
- The law needs redefining for a start – it is considered vague
- A proactive culture driven by people who want to make meaningful change on the issue needs to be instituted
- Reporting procedures need to be improved and staff educated on how to make a complaint
- Complainants need to have confidence that when a complaint is reported it is acted on and not filed away
But do nothing should not be an option.