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Workplace Bullying

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Best practice guidelines on workplace bullying, released recently by WorkSafe New Zealand, are a big step forward in support and guidance for businesses and individuals about what is a prevalent workplace hazard.
Titled “Preventing and responding to workplace bullying”, the guidelines encourage and support people in taking early self-help action against workplace bullying before seeking assistance from WorkSafe NZ or the mediation service offered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

The guidelines include useful on-line tools such as a cost calculator so employers can assess how much it can cost when they don’t deal adequately with bullying situations, and a workplace assessment tool that enables employers and workers to evaluate the culture in their workplace. They also introduce a new definition of bullying and the concept of ‘institutional bullying’, when an organisation’s norms, culture or practices allow behaviour that causes offence or undue stress, or where workplace structures, practices, policies or requirements place unreasonable burdens on employees without concern for their well-being. The guidelines can be found on the WorkSafe NZ website.


Workplace bullying is not OK

Bullying is widespread in the public sector, especially in health and education. Here are a number of resources to help you recognise bullying and advice on how to go about putting a stop to it.

What is bullying?

Bullying can be described as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse of power that undermines, humiliates or injures the recipient.Bullying - risk and protective factors

It can take many forms but common examples include:

  • Spreading malicious rumours or insulting someone

  • Copying emails about someone to others who do not need to know

  • Picking on someone or setting them up to fail

  • Physical intimidation

  • Overbearing supervision or overloading someone with work

  • Making threats about job security

  • Using abusive and humiliating language

  • Exclusion or victimisation or any unfair treatment.

Bullying can be hard to recognise. It can sometimes be confused with 'firm management'. Bullying can occur at all levels. It is not just limited to cases where managers deliberately pick on their staff. It can exist between co-workers and colleagues and staff can also engage collectively in bullying their manager. It may not be obvious to others and the recipient may think that 'it is normal behaviour in this organisation'. They may be anxious that others consider them weak or simply 'not up to the job' if they raise a complaint. Other work colleagues may be scared to support them for fear of retribution.

Further information is available in the Department of Labour bullying factsheet

PSA handbook on creating safe workplaces

A handbook for delegates on identifying and dealing with bullying behaviours in the workplace. Go here

Survey finds bullying is widespread in the state sector


Abusive and intimidating behaviours are widespread in the state sector, according to a 2010 survey by the SSC into standards of integrity and conduct. Read

Women are especially vulnerable to bullying and discrimination

A  2011 survey of  7292 PSA women members in the public service found that 43% had experienced bullying. Read the full report here.