In 2004, BPW NZ Immediate Past President Jean Park undertook a survey, through BPW clubs, of bullying in the workplace.
The purpose of the survey was to raise awareness, to provide information and resources, and to assist women who were experiencing bullying in their workplace. Jean’s conclusions are summarised here.
Workplace bullying is defined as “repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others, at the place of work and/or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work.”
As yet, New Zealand does not have a National Code of Practice, but workplaces are required to be a safe environment.
The following are some of the effects highlighted by the survey:
• Problems continued over a period of time, and were not isolated incidents.
• People left their workplace, often successively, with appointees to the same position and in short periods of time.
• Loss of self esteem
• Loss of confidence
• Physical illness as a result of stress
• Weight gain or loss
• Inability to concentrate
• Low energy and loss of enthusiasm for work
• Feeling demoralised and humiliated
• Inability to make decisions or doubting one’s own judgement
• Working longer hours with fewer resources to try and meet the demands
Some examples of bullying tactics were:
• Information withheld, making the individual look incompetent or lazy
• Public praise, but ridicule and sarcasm in private
• Derogatory remarks when totally inappropriate
Jean received three hundred and twenty two replies to her questionnaire. Some were group responses from clubs, but most were from women who said they were being bullied, and preferred to contact Jean individually.
Of the 322 responses, 34 reported that their place of work did not have polices or protocols in place regarding bullying or harassment. Those with such policies in their workplaces were more aware of them, and of how to access them.
Assistance did not necessarily remove or significantly alter matters in the company, and many women still chose to leave.
Confronting the perpetrator directly was regarded as relatively unsuccessful as it did not change the behaviour, and in fact at times made it worse. If there was denial by the perpetrator that there was such an issue, it was more likely to reflect negatively on the complainant.
The most significant result was the level of reported bullying. 130 had experienced bullying (over 40 %). Jean found the rate of bullying to be higher than she had expected, with a significant number (one third) of these women leaving their place of work to escape or to end the problem at the least cost to themselves, even though experiencing significant financial or personal loss.
The full text of Jean’s survey is available through BPW NZ.
– Help line 0800 937 628 (0800 ZERO BULLY)
– Contact the Industrial Nurse, Health and Safety Officers or any other appropriate authority if necessary to achieve a safe working environment.
– Needham, Andrea W: Workplace Bullying Penguin Books 2003
Some Facts and figures about bullying within schools and online
With all schools talking about bullying and the media regularly reporting on latest research, it could seem like we’re in a bullying epidemic. But, it’s not all bad – the incidence of bullying, particularly the traditional face-to-face style, according to expert Dr Toni Noble, is not increasing.
“It’s a controversial area but with the effective communication of the message that bullying is unacceptable, it’s just now more likely to be reported,” says Dr Noble, a member of the National Centre Against Bullying, who works with the Federal Government on National Safe Schools Framework being rolled out into all schools later this year.
“Cyber-bullying, on the other hand may be increasing with recent research suggesting that 1 in 10 kids have been cyber-bullied.”
Here is why bullying, and policies and strategies to combat it, are such a high priority for communities and governments.
- One student in every four in Australian schools is affected by bullying, says recent research commissioned by the Federal Government.
- An estimated 200 million children and youth around the world are being bullied by their peers, according to the 2007 Kandersteg Declaration Against Bullying in Children and Youth.
- Kids who are bullied are three times more likely to show depressive symptoms, says the Centre for Adolescent Health.
- Children who were bullied were up to nine times more likely to have suicidal thoughts, say some studies.
- Girls who were victims of bullying in their early primary school years were more likely to remain victims as they got older, according to British research.
- Children who were frequently bullied by their peers were more likely to develop psychotic symptoms in their early adolescence, says more UK research.
- Girls were much more likely than boys to be victims of both cyber and traditional bullying, says a recent Murdoch Children’s Research Institute study.
- Children as young as three can become victims of bullying, says Canadian research.
- Young people who bully have a one in four chance of having a criminal record by the age of 30.
- Bullying is the fourth most common reason young people seek help from children’s help services.
- 56% of students have personally felt some sort of bullying at school. Between 4th and 8th grade in particular, 90% of students are victims of bullying.
- The most common reason cited for being harassed is a student’s appearance or body size. 2 out of 5 teens feel that they are bullied because of the way that they look.
- 9 out of 10 LGBT youth reported being verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
- 1 in 4 teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will only intervene 4% percent of the time.
- A victim of bullying is twice as likely to take his or her own life compared to someone who is not a victim.
- One out of 10 students drop out of school because they are bullied.
- Physical bullying peak in middle school and declines in high school. Verbal abuse rates remain constant from elementary to high school.
- Researchers feel that bullying should not be treated as part of growing up (with the attitude “kids will be kids”).
- 41% of principals say they have programs designed to create a safe environment for LGBT students, but only 1/3 of principals say that LGBT students would feel safe at their school.
- 57% of students who experience harassment in school never report the incident to the school. 10% of those who do not report stay quiet because they do not believe that teachers or staff can do anything. As a result, more than a quarter of students feel that school is an unsafe place to be.
- Schools with easily understood rules of conduct, smaller class sizes and fair discipline practices report less violence than those without such features.