Bullying is prevalent in almost every environment including schools, workplaces and at home. It is characterised by repeated and unreasonable behaviour from one person or a group of people towards an individual or group that causes a risk to their health and safety. That’s quite a mouthful! Let us break it down …
Repeated – for an allegation of bullying to be established, the behaviour must be repeated – while a single instance of unreasonable behaviour can be uncomfortable and should be addressed, it does not meet the definition.
Unreasonable – this means behaviour that a reasonable person in the same situation would not find reasonable.
Many employees think they are being bullied when in fact the business or manager is simply trying to correct a behaviour or performance issue. So, to clarify, let’s look at some examples
Max works in sales, he tries hard but struggles to up-sell products. His team has a weekly meeting to discuss their upcoming sales and progress for the week. Today at the meeting, Max is asked by his manager to make an impromptu presentation on why his up-selling technique is so poor.
This is bullying, a discussion about Max’s performance should be held in private – asking him to present at a group meeting, will humiliate him and single him out in front of this peers.
Mary works in the office, she does some basic accounts work and acts as the personal assistant to her manager. Her colleague falls ill and her manager asks Mary to pick up some of the tasks that the colleague usually does. Mary agrees to help but she is not happy about the extra work. A week later, her manager asks how she is progressing with the tasks he has assigned her, Mary feels that he is picking on her and is upset.
This is NOT bullying, employers have a right to manage performance and monitor work done by their employees.
As a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) you have obligations to manage workplace bullying, this is part if your risk management in your business and your primary duty of care. Understanding the difference between managing employees and bullying is importantly but it is more important to make sure that you take all allegations seriously.
A simple but effective process for investigating a bullying complaint would look like this:
Tarryn has worked in HR for over 14 years and loves to solve problems. She is a self professed employment relations junkie! She lives in Auckland with her dedicated husband, tireless toddler and three special needs cats.