The cost of bullying in your workplace

One in four employees in New Zealand say that they have been bullied at work.

Bullying has a negative effect in people’s mental and physical health, can damage the culture and brand of a business, increase absenteeism and reduce employee retention and business productivity.

What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying is an ongoing, unwanted and unreasonable behaviour directed to a worker or a group of workers. Bullying can be physical, verbal, digital (cyberbullying), psychological or social. This may include victimising, humiliating, insensitive jokes, or excluding, intimidating or threatening a person.

Bullying is not a one-off or occasional rude behaviour, giving constructive feedback, advice or peer review, warning or disciplining workers in line with the business, differences in opinion or personality clashes.

Bullying can happen between managers and staff, and among co-workers, contractors, customers, clients or visitors.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, employers must make sure that their workers are healthy and safe at work. This includes managing the risks of bullying.

What can employers do to prevent and respond to bullying?

Employers should have clear guidelines for their workers about acceptable behaviour (a code of conduct), as well as policies and processes to deal with improper behaviour. These policies should clearly state standards of behaviour at work, and promote a healthy and respectful culture.

WorkSafe (external link) has several resources, including examples of a bullying policy that you can use for your business.

To respond to accusations of bullying, employers should:

  • treat all complaints of bullying seriously
  • consider the information provided
  • clearly communicate the process and timelines
  • tell the people involved what is going to happen once the investigation is completed
  • appoint an independent person to investigate the complaint properly
  • focus on the person being complained about
  • protect the people involved from victimisation
  • support the people involved
  • keep it private
  • be unbiased and fair
  • tell the results of the investigation and what will you do, and
  • review and improve policies to reduce the chance of bullying happening again. 

For more information, visit our newly updated Bullying webpages.