The book Workplace Bullying, A Costly Business Phenomenon, has been released in a new edition a decade after the death of its author, Andrea Needham.
John Butters of John Butters and Associates says the trustees of the Andrea Needham Leadership Charitable Trust had been looking at the best way to use the fund that Needham left to improve leadership and awareness of workplace bullying in New Zealand.
"We went down the path of providing scholarships for potential leaders through Leadership New Zealand and to update the book with the help of academics at Massey University's Business School in Albany.
"The reason for choosing the Massey team was because, while she was dying, Andrea herself met with them and passed on her stories to them and they followed up with a decade of research into workplace bullying – both international and national.
"We, the Trust, got in touch with these people – Tim Bentley, Bevan Catley and Natalia D'Souza from Massey - a couple of years ago and asked them if they would work with us to do another edition of the book and update it.
"We found others who worked on the first edition, the publisher and the people who did the cover – they joined the project as well.
"The books just arrived last month and we're in the process of distributing them. At the moment, a way of getting a copy is through emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org at $35 each. We are organising beneficial arrangements for organisations eg. Lifeline, Youthline and others."
Butters says the book is an important resource for people who are what he calls "may-be bullied" and "may-be bullies".
"People may think they're being bullied, or someone may know someone who they think is being bullied, for example a counsellor who has someone come in to therapy thinking they are being bullied at work … the counsellor can lend the book to the person.
"It has assessment questionaires and resources you can go to if you think you are being bullied and discusses the next steps you can take.
"For the may-be bullies, sometimes managers and organisations carry on with behaviour that could be bullying but they don't even realise it. As Andrea said, these managers are sometimes performing well in some measures but obviously not others.
"This book is a resource for a manager to give to another manager or person in the organisation and say: `hey, we've had a discussion on how you are a bit bruising to some of your colleagues or staff, I would just like you to take a look at this resource, and come back to me and talk about how you're behaving – what have you picked up from this book?'
"It's possible that a manager may not realise that their behaviour is bullying. Sometimes a manager will create an excessive workload, if this is repeated and the employee is saying they're stressed, not coping etc, the manager could ignore this, thinking `harden up'. But in actual fact this could be defined as workplace bullying."
There's a section in the book that helps workplace bullies reform their behaviour and there is help for targets wondering what to do about a bullying situation.
"A lot of companies don't want to admit that they've got a workplace bullying culture," says Butters. "I've noticed how much how the organisation is set up, and what makes for success can lead to workplace bullying.
"When people have to focus on KPIs all the time, and people are forced to compete and drive themselves too hard. Abhorrent behaviour can be created. Workplace bullying can by systemic."
He says, "Andrea spoke more about individuals – but the systemic nature of workplace bullying has been researched more now."
Butters says, in New Zealand there's excessive teasing at times. In the past it would have been worse and centred around nationality – particularly with people who spoke English as a second language. The workforce has become more enlightened now – but when that sort of thing happens, it could be seen as bullying.
Butters says: "Another powerful bullying tactic is exclusion. We have a management team, the leader of the group has a subset that they deal with more, some are preferred by the manager. This excludes some people and may not be intended as bullying, but it can be defined as workplace bullying, it could meet the criteria.
"Sometimes management don't realise that they are bullying. We judge it if it's persistent, is not wanted by the person who is excluded or targeted and it's negative."
Butters says: "The Massey group found that workplace bullying happens to 10 to 20 per cent of people in the workforce. It's an activity that is repeated at least weekly for a period of at least six months. So it's over a period of time. Performance management is not necessarily bullying, of course, depending on how it's done and the reasons for it. Bullying is always directed towards or away from a group or individual.
He says that it appears that of cases that come before the Employment Relations Authority, about 25 per cent are related to workplace bullying.