Workplaces across New Zealand turned pink today as workers and employers pulled on brightly coloured T-shirts in the annual stand against bulling.
"Spread aroha and kindness" was this year's catchphrase for the Mental Health Foundation promotion aimed at creating schools, workplaces and communities where people feel safe, valued and respected.
NZME celebrated Pink Shirt Day across the country with staff breakfasts, morning teas and cupcakes.
The company's culture and performance manager Simon Brown says the media giant, publisher of the New Zealand Herald, recognises how important it is for people to feel safe and included at work.
NZME wants to raise awareness about bullying, so recently went through an organisation-wide communication process and ensure all new starters are educated about NZME's approach to bullying.
"It's really important to identify potential issues early, so we urge all employees to get in touch with their manager or the culture and performance team as soon as they have any concerns or need help," Brown says.
NZME looks to take a positive approach to workplace culture to ensure its staff are engaged and involved, through a range of diversity and inclusion initiatives, including regular team stand-ups where work groups discuss their achievements and goals in an informal setting. CEO Michael Boggs also holds "kitchen catch-ups" with all employees to share the latest news about the company and answer questions.
A free, confidential employee assistance programme is also available to all employees.
'On the high side'
Massey University association professor Bevan Catley, who researches workplace bullying, says no representative statistics are available but research – including his own – into specific industries have produced bullying figures of between 10 and 18 per cent.
"The rates appear to be on the high side," Catley said. "A significant number of people go to work and experience bullying behaviours."
But Catley says events like today's Pink Shirt Day show rising levels of awareness among employers and that companies are taking steps to address bullying and ill treatment generally.
"Employers are taking concrete action and the amendment of the health and safety legislation say it's a hazard: employers are obligated to manage bullying like they would many any other hazards in the workplace."
Catley says the best approach to preventing bullying is to focus on positives: managing the workplace to reach health and wellbeing goals is more engaging than focusing on bullying.
He cited last year's New Zealand Defence Force win at last year's Diversity Awards for its Sexual Ethics and Respectful Relating training to tackle harmful sexual behaviour.
"The training covered 'green behaviour' the NZDF wanted to grow, 'orange behaviour' it wanted to confront and talk about, and 'red' behaviour, which was completely unacceptable," Diversity Works chief executive Rachel Hopkins said at the time. "It also challenged NZDF's people not to be bystanders by emphasising that every one has the power to prevent harmful sexual behaviour.
"Participants were encouraged to speak to three people about what they had learned, meaning the initiative has impact and reach throughout the organisation and the community."
Catley said initiatives such as the award and today's Pink Shirt Day are good steps towards addressing bullying.
"Any initiative that puts these kinds of topics - bullying at school or at work – [on the agenda] have to be a good thing because a good place to start seeing change is getting people to talk about it, seeing there is a problem and raising awareness. What you hope it then translates into is more concrete action."
Tips for employers:
Recognise that the most important causes of bullying lie in the work environment and the way work is organised: it's not simply about clashes of personalities
Keep investing in management competencies
Solutions require a persistent approach