Pink Shirt Day an opportunity to remember bullying isn't just a kids' problem

A third of workplaces said bullying was an important issue.
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A third of workplaces said bullying was an important issue.

Amy* is no stranger to workplace bullying.

Since her first jobs fresh out of school, she has encountered people who have demeaned her, insulted her and undermined her.

But the most recent was so insidious that it left her questioning whether she had caused it.

It was her first  journalism role after graduating, and she says her immediate supervisor seemed to write her off straight away.

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Large organisations were more likely to have recorded incidents (45.2 per cent).
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Large organisations were more likely to have recorded incidents (45.2 per cent).

When she told him she wanted to be a journalist to stand up for the underdog and fight for the disenfranchised, he brushed her off.

"He tore me down in front of the whole newsroom, saying there's no place for you if you want to change the world ... you can f... off."

Then her most senior manager seemed to take against her, too, she said. His tone was frequently threatening, telling her she was "on thin ice".

At one meeting, he told her that she was doing good work – but said "you can do 10 good things here and one bad, and the one bad will always outweigh the good".

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"It was like being in an abusive marriage."

He blamed her husband for flooding a staff bathroom and when she had an accident in a work car, told her that whether she was dismissed or not depended on how bad the damage was.

"I blamed myself," Amy said. "I thought it must be my fault, I'm a difficult person to be around."

Then she lost her job in a restructure. Amy says it was almost a relief. "I don't have to deal with these people any more."

She said workplace bullying needed to be taken more seriously.

"If you talk about it, you're dismissed as being too sensitive. People think bullying stops at high school but it doesn't."

New research shows that bullying and harassment are rated as important issues in just over a third of New Zealand workplaces, up from 26 per cent in October 2016.

Friday is this year's Pink Shirt Day, designed to raise awareness of bullying.

Diversity Works New Zealand chief executive Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie said it was important to remember bullying was not an issue affecting only young people.

"Conflict in the workplace is inevitable and it can help promote new ideas and innovation," Cassidy-Mackenzie said.

"However, it can escalate into bullying, harassment or violence, which has serious impacts on individuals and organisations."

Organisations across New Zealand were becoming more aware of the business benefits of creating an inclusive workplace culture, but allowing bullying and harassment to continue unchecked would undermine their efforts, she said.

Just under 30 per of respondents to the Diversity Survey reported that their organisation had recorded incidents of bullying and harassment in the past 12 months.

Reporting occurred more frequently in public-sector organisations, where the figure was 37 per cent, compared with 23 per cent in private-sector workplaces.

Large organisations were more likely to have recorded incidents (45 per cent) than medium-sized (38 per cent) or small organisations (9 per cent).

* Amy's name has changed to protect her identity.

 - Stuff

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