Article by Janice Davies, Ann Andrews and Michael Smyth
A recent report highlighted the tragic news that New Zealand has one of the highest rates of workplace bullying in the world, with a staggering one in five employees being subjected to overbearing or belittling behaviour at work.
The research, funded by the Department of Labour and the Health Research Council found that levels of workplace stress and bullying were far greater than expected.
A survey of 1728 workers in the health, education, travel and hospitality sectors found 18 percent had been bullied, while 75 percent had suffered workplace stress.
Ineffective leadership was highlighted as one of the main causes. However, Janice Davies believes that lack of personal awareness skills is also a key factor in the bullying relationships.
The research further discovered that employers across all the surveyed sectors had a limited understanding of the problem and how to address it. It also found that reporting structures in most of the organisations they studied were ineffective, with bullying being viewed as part of wider harassment or violence initiatives.
Organisations need to have a zero-tolerance policy towards bullying which, for most places of work will require a cultural change and clearly defined procedures put in place to educate managers and team leaders on effective strategies for dealing with bullies.
Although it is impossible to gauge lost revenue from the effects of bullying, some staggering statistics are available on workplace disengagement. In a biannual poll of working New Zealanders undertaken last year by Gallup Consulting, their results showed that 15% of workers are actively disengaged (a 4% increase since 2006) and that manufacturing has the highest percentage (22%); service industries the lowest (12%). 38% of actively disengaged staff felt that the stress of work caused a flow-on effect to behaving poorly with their family or friends, compared with only 13% of Engaged employees.
In New Zealand, JRA, who conduct the ‘Best places to work survey’, believe 70 percent of workers are ambivalent or disengaged and the cost of that disengagement is on the rise and estimated to be in the region of $NZ5.9 billion p.a.
Janice Davies was herself bullied at work from a bully with a previously tainted workplace reputation. After a five minute verbal attack from the bully, her boss told her to discuss the problem over lunch and become friends. Fortunately for her, prior personal experiences with bullies and had taught her how to remain empowered.
From the victims point of view bullies are cruel co-workers. It is difficult, but the victim needs to learn if it wasn’t them, the bully would find another target. They use manipulative language and behaviour, preying on kind hearted and non assertive employees or gradually nitpick at confident employees until they lose their self confidence.
A workplace bully is angry and unable to communicate assertively. They have low self esteem and create negative relationships. Some may be conscious of their antics but unaware there are different types of positive workplace relationship which create more satisfaction for both parties.
At Janice’s workshops on dealing with difficult people, attendees confirmed a high percentage of bullying was experienced. It uncovered that after victims discussed the situations with their HR department or managers, they were often told to ‘get on with it’ or it was fobbed off as inconsequential. Generally they found another job leaving the bully for the next employee.
These solutions are suggestions from the reports and our authors.
• Organisations need to have a zero-tolerance policy towards bullying which, for most places of work will require a cultural change and a realisation that bullying is not acceptable
• Organisation will also need to have clearly defined procedures in place to educate managers and team leaders on effective strategies for dealing with bullies
• Organisations also need to provide education for empowering employees to be confident and how to engage in positive workplace relationships
• Organisations who hire for skills rather than attitudes may discover that qualified staff have not developed their people skills, therefore qualified employees still need further education about creating positive workplace relationships.
When these solutions are addressed, an organisation is likely to have a safer environment with trustworthy, motivated staff who support, respect and perform at a higher level during working hours. Thus, the 1 = 2 or more, ratio of disengaged employees is transformed
In the Gallup Poll, it was discovered that 76% of engaged New Zealand workers strongly agree that their supervisor is an active supporter of changes that affect their group. Which translates into good old fashioned democratic or consensus style leadership!
Three professionals who work in the corporate sector are now providing practical solutions so companies can deal confidently and competently with the issue.
• Janice Davies from The Attitude Specialists is a business trainer and consultant who has first hand experience of being bullied at work and now shows targets of bullying how to deal with the situation.
• Ann Andrews – The Corporate Toolbox has 20+ years experience as an HR Consultant who, not only advises organisations on how to set up sound policies and procedures but also teaches managers how to actually deal with bullies in their team
• Michael Smyth is a practising employment law barrister and the author of Employed But Not Engaged: How to break up with your employees and hold on to the ring. Michael has successfully worked with the victims of bullying in raising personal grievances and defended employers from bullying accusations.
Also available are tips, articles, TV & radio interviews and E-Posters for display on http://www.attitudespecialist.co.nz/self-esteem-bullying.html For further queries email firstname.lastname@example.org