New Zealand Law Society - Information for employees

Information for employees

Starting a new job is often a difficult and stressful time. Learning to deal with and manage different personalities and new ways of working can be a challenge for everyone.

Bullying and harassment is something that is, unfortunately, all too common in our workplaces and yet it remains something that is often misunderstood and confronting. It can be difficult and emotionally fraught.

When you start out in your professional career you learn that joining the workforce means dealing with many different types of people – supervisors, colleagues and clients etc - with completely different outlooks on life. Learning to deal with a range of personalities such as functional communicators, deadline sticklers, colleagues under significant work pressures and managers who are very forthright when it comes to constructive criticism (and less forthright with praise) is part and parcel of coping with working life.

However, learning to cope with a supervisor or colleague who approaches work differently is not the same as having to dealing with one who steps over the line into inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour.

What do I do if I think I am being bullied or harassed?

Dealing with workplace bullying and harassment is stressful and is not something you should have to cope with alone. The most important thing is to get help and take a constructive course of action whether formally or informally. It is always worthwhile trying to resolve a matter informally and at an early stage before a matter escalates. Staying silent is not the best option.

WorkSafe has an excellent guide to what bullying at work can look like, and what you can do if you think you are being bullied, or are accused of being a bully. WorkSafe suggests:

(1) First you should gather information about each incident, including:

  • Date, time and place,
  • What happened (who was present, what was said, who said what),
  • Whether anyone else was present, and
  • How you felt.

(2) Identity options and decide on a course of action.

WorkSafe outlines options for dealing with unreasonable behaviour. These include:

Seeking advice and support. Speak to a trusted friend or colleague (or a “friend” through the Law Society’s Friends Panel, including “sense checking” that the behaviour you are experiencing is unreasonable.

Dealing with the behaviour yourself if you are comfortable doing so (by addressing your concerns directly with the person concerned).

Informally report the incident to the appropriate person within the organisation (someone from human resources, a partner or manager if it relates to someone in their team, or another partner or manager within the organisation).

Formally make a written complaint.

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