Employment Matters: Colleagues' Day?

TESTING TESTING: A trial period is the nearest thing you get to a test drive in employment, lawyer Bridget Smith says.
TESTING TESTING: A trial period is the nearest thing you get to a test drive in employment, lawyer Bridget Smith says.

Sunday was Mother's Day, and if the number of people I saw sitting if cafes in large groups was anything to go by, there was a lot of Mother's Day celebrating going on.

If this column is the first you are learning that yesterday was Mother's Day - you may have some making up to do!

Some people don't celebrate or observe Mother's Day; choosing instead to regard it as a commercial or marketing ploy, designed to increase card and flower sales.  

Others take the view they don't need to celebrate their mother on a particular day, everyday should be Mother's Day.

Which got me to thinking, there's no such thing as colleagues day, so when, if ever, do we celebrate our colleagues?

Do you have good colleagues, who make going to work enjoyable? Who you enjoy swapping stories about your weekend on a Monday morning with and who you are happy to have a few quiet Friday night drinks with?  

Or do your colleagues fall into the other camp? Do you stick at your job despite your colleagues? Dread going to work because you don't know what the reaction, treatment or behaviour of your colleagues will be?

One of the difficulties in addressing poor or inappropriate treatment by colleagues in a workplace is the reluctance of those on the receiving end of the treatment to come forward.  

Many take the approach that because they can't guarantee making a complaint will result in dismissal, they are better just to "tough it out", because making a complaint only to have the colleague remain in the workplace, is only likely to make the situation worse. They fear retribution or being labelled a "nark".

The Preventing and Responding to Bullying Guidelines, recently introduced by WorkSafe, should go some way to assisting people in dealing with bullying in the workplace.

The Guidelines contain a definition of bullying (adopting the definition used by Safe Work Australia). They also contain examples of bullying behaviours, explanations of different types of bullies and advice for both employees and employers in dealing with bullying.

The intention is that the guidelines will assist those who believe they are being bullied in feeling confident that the behaviour is in fact bullying and not just some personal weakness.  

The existence of the Guidelines will also hopefully assist employers in dealing with bullying allegations (starting with being able to identify bullying) but in a circular way, should also draw out more allegations of bullying, as employees gain confidence that any complaints will be dealt with appropriately.

So, having celebrated your mother yesterday, ask yourself, are your celebrating your colleagues?  

Or at the very least treating them, and being treated, with the respect and courtesy you deserve.  

Yesterday was about making mum's day, but wouldn't it be nice to look forward to going to work. By coming forward about bullying, you may just make your own day.

Bridget Smith is a partner at Swarbrick Beck Mackinnon and a member of the Auckland District Law Society.