According to Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP), workplace bullying occurs when an individual or a group of people direct irrational actions repeatedly towards their fellow worker(or workers) in order to threaten, degrade, disgrace or demoralize them (1).
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Sexual harassment, on the other hand, takes place when a worker makes repeated, unsolicited sexual gestures, demands for sexual favors, and other physical or oral conduct of sexual nature to a fellow worker (Heathfield 1). Incidences of workplace bullying and sexual harassment are prevalent in New Zealand.
According to a study done by Workplaces against Violence in Employment (WAVE), workplace bullying in New Zealand is three times more common than sexual pestering. The study also revealed that workplace bullying was a major contributor (48%) of workplace-related anxiety.
For example, when workplace bully emergency hotlines were set up by Auckland management consultancy Stratos in 2003, over 1000 telephone calls were received in the first three days of its operation (Swanwick 46).
Examples of Bullying and sexual harassment at the workplace
Bullying is not similar to antagonism. The former entails regular harassment against the person targeted, generating a constant pattern of behavior while the latter entails a single act. There are several examples of workplace bullying. They include social isolation, micro-managing, being assigned unreasonable deadlines, humiliation, being sworn or shouted at, being treated differently from other employees, and being criticized without valid reasons (SHARP 1).
There are also numerous examples of sexual harassment at work. These include: unsolicited gestures, jokes, derogative words and unwanted comments; constant demands for dates that are declined or unsolicited flirting; bodily contact for example stroking a fellow employee’s back, gripping the waist of an employee or obstructing his or her movement; exhibiting sexually evocative pictures, posters or objects; and playing sexually evocative songs (Heathfield 3).
The impact of bullying and sexual harassment at the workplace is significant. For example, the Corporate Leavers Study, done in 2007, reported that over two million workers resigned from their duties every year due to bullying and sexual harassment. As a result, the study reported that employers lose over $63 billion every year (Daniel 4). It is thus imperative that employers adopt policies to mitigate bullying and sexual harassment at the workplace.
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Just like many other countries, New Zealand has not enacted laws to tackle workplace bullying and sexual harassment. In addition, the country lacks an apt legal description of workplace bullying and sexual harassment. For instance, an aggrieved employee must submit present his or her case under the Employment Relations Act (2000).
However, the ER Act does not describe workplace bullying. The Act also does not consider workplace bullying as a basis for an employee to seek legal redress. Likewise, workplace bullying is not prohibited by the Human Rights Act (1993). The Act only outlaws sexual and racial harassment at workplaces in New Zealand but ignores other forms of harassment (LawWorks 4).
Policies to adopt to alleviate bullying and sexual harassment
In spite of the psychological and economic impacts of bullying and sexual harassment at the workplace, New Zealand does not have effective laws to deal with these crimes. Therefore, employers need to create a partnership model of relationships that gives emphasis on mutual respect, diversity and teamwork, and workplace. The model should also give credence to employee needs via relationships built on unadulterated care and compassion.
Managers must also promote a cooperative culture at the workplace, which will eliminate fear from workers and enable them to articulate their ideas freely. In addition, programs such as employee engagement workshops, comprehensive ethics programs, and leadership training and development initiatives should be adopted to create social harmony and mutual respect among employees (Daniel 12).
Daniel, Teresa. Workplace Bullying in American Organizations: The path from Recognition to Prohibition. 2010. Web.
Heathfield, Susan. Sexual Harassment: Harassment and sexual Harassment in the Workplace. 2011. Web.
LawWorks. Dealing with Bullying in the Workplace. N.d.
SHARP. Workplace Bullying and Disruptive Behaviour: What Everyone Needs to Know. 2011.
Swanwick, Debbie. How to beat the Workplace Bully. 2004. Web.