One in five workers in New Zealand report being bullied in the workplace each year

Praneeta Mahajan

Praneeta Mahajan

Hamilton, 27 October 2022

Workplace bullying- Punished for competency?

“No one heals by wounding another.”- St. Ambrose

New Zealand is known for many things. While most of those things are beautiful and positive, we are, unfortunately, known for some negatives as well.

Along with some of the worst statistics for a first-world country in depression, suicides, and teenage pregnancies among others, a rising problem is that of Workplace bullying.

Indian Newslink spoke to a person who has been fighting a long battle against this social evil in a brave and commendable manner.

Allan Halse is New Zealand’s leading anti-workplace bullying expert/advocate. He is the Founder of Hamilton CultureSafe. Many of his clients vouch for him and count on his support when there is no one else to listen to their stories.

A Nominee for the 2019, 2020, 2022 & 2023 New Zealander of the Year Awards, the passion with which Allan talks against the effects of bullying on our workforce and the extended society is infectious.

 

Allan Halse – Anti Workplace Bullying Advocate

What is bullying

Mr Halse shared his experience and said, to be put simply, it is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that can lead to physical or psychological harm. The behaviour is persistent occurs and can involve a range of actions over time.

He said that “most of my clients are well-educated, highly competent and confident people who are singled out and repeatedly put in situations of harassment, embarrassment, threat or attack till they are ‘severely broken’ or for the select few who still decide to fight for their rights, they are invalidated by the legal representatives. With 75% of the reported victims being females, the problem is a lot bigger than it seems on the surface.”

A normal consequence of bullying is the toll it takes on one’s mental health, with Depression, anxiety, PTSD and sometimes suicidal tendencies in their behaviour.

Mr Halse said while it was prevalent all across the spectrum, there were few areas where they were more prevalent than others.

He mentioned how government organisations, academic institutions,  hospitality, farming and places with migrant workers had a higher rate of bullying incidents.

It is the combination of the bully’s insecurity combined with the competency and potential shown by the victim of bullying that creates a chain of oppression, accusations, isolation and humiliation.

What the numbers say

More than a third of respondents to a Human Rights Commission survey say they have experienced some form of harassment at work in the past five years.

In the report, ‘Experiences of Workplace Bullying and Harassment in Aotearoa New Zealand’, 39% of people said they had been racially harassed at work.

Also, 30% reported being sexually harassed and 20 per cent were bullied. A staggering number of 44% of workers were aware of bullying affecting others in their workplace in the last 5 years.

The nationwide study found that 24% of those who reported being mistreated, raised a formal complaint.

According to Worksafe NZ, One in five workers in New Zealand report they have been bullied in the workplace each year.

Workplace Bullying and Harassment in Aotearoa New Zealand report, 29 August 2022. (Human Rights Commission Photo)

New Zealand Problem

Allan Halse said, unlike Australia, the US or the UK, New Zealand does not have an agency that can intervene immediately. New Zealand has the 2nd worst bullying culture in the developed world. Bullied workers have no access to state-funded support, advocacy, psychologists or ACC.

It is not like picking up the phone and calling for help. “Even if you can prove that your PTSD was caused due to behaviour of your employers, you get no compensation.”

The problem gets bigger when migrant workers, who are dependent on the jobs for financial pressures, visa requirements or simply due to lack of knowledge of their rights,  are added to the mix and see no way out of the situation. That leads to greater pressure situations and the abuse gets more intense and consistent.

The easy way out for employers who have a culture of workplace bullying is to simply replace the employees and bring in new workers to repeat the cycle.

Mr Halse said New Zealand, being a part of the developed countries, has no effective laws to counter the problem. He said there have never been any prosecutions or consequences for employers who have not done their part in keeping employees safe and impacted their mental well-being negatively.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink Reporter based in Hamilton.

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