Culture, policy stops workplace bullying -- expert

Culture, policy stops workplace bullying -- expert

A strict anti-bullying policy and culture change are two things experts are suggesting to help eradicate bullying in the workplace.

One in five people are being bullied at the office throughout the country and three quarters of victims will suffer post-traumatic stress as a result.

Experts studying workplace bullying are converging on Auckland today, and among them is Professor Staale Einarsen.

He told the Paul Henry programme today he hasn't seen a workplace which doesn't have some sort of bullying going on.

"It varies between sectors and occupations, it varies between workplaces and departments -- but a totally bully-free environment is difficult to find."

Prof Einarsen says the difference comes with the culture of the office and whether employees feel as though they can get away their actions.

"In some organisations there are anti-forces which are stronger. So, if management will stop you if you step over the line then that is good. But in others, the anti-forces are very weak."

"They need a policy, and they need an anti-bullying statement in there and they need procedures of complaints and they need to train their managers as to how to run an investigation."

This isn't to suggest that bullying is exclusively among peers however. In fact Prof Einarsen says half the time it is management versus a subordinate.

"That differs a bit among countries, but I would say that its half and half. So half of the cases are between peers and half of the cases are between managers and subordinates. But if you think that managers are 15 percent of the workforce -- they are high risk for being a bully."

Regardless of where the bullying is coming from, research has shown the effects of it can last for up to 15 years after the psychological torment seizes.

Prof Einarsen says one study which tracked 13- to 15-year-olds for 15 years noticed even at the age of 30, they still hadn't completely got over some of the trauma.