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Workplace Bullying 2022

NZ $35.00
Calum Cartwright
Mahony Horner Lawyers
Dr Emily Cooney
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Clinic

Authors: Calum Cartwright, Dr Emily Cooney
Published: 9 February 2022
Pages: 27


Both employment law in New Zealand and standard bullying policies place a focus on formal investigations to resolve bullying issues. While formal investigations have a place in some circumstances, they are time-consuming, cause distress to both the complainant and alleged bully, and can delay actions required to resolve bullying complaints. It is difficult for an investigation to offer nuanced solutions which address the complicated dynamics at play when bullying complaints are made. Bullying behaviours are more likely to occur in the context of systemic conflict, task ambiguity, and by individuals with limited self-awareness and negative emotionality.1 Little to no steps are taken within the investigation process to obtain buy-in from the parties involved – indeed, an investigation process risks creating more obstacles for a resolution. This is problematic where the employment relationship continues following any investigation.
The article aims to highlight how the current legal framework wrongly places a focus on formal investigations and recommends that policies be adapted to enable faster implementation of more nuanced solutions to bullying issues and which reserve employment investigations for the most serious bullying conduct. These processes are intended to give clarity for the parties involved, offer initial solutions for circumstances when bullying is unlikely to be found, and avoid exacerbating and prolonging the distress of all parties.


Content outline

  • The legal framework regarding bullying
  • Issues arising from the default investigative approach
  • The legal basis for reserving formal employment investigations to serious cases of bullying
  • Recommendation for an alternative framework
  • Determining the appropriate track to manage allegations of bullying
  • Interventions under track one
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