Does NZ have the second-worst rate of workplace bullying in the developed world?

Stuff reports:

A 1700-person academic survey showed New Zealand had the second-worst rate of workplace bullying in the developed world with one in five workers afflicted.

Do we?

I’ve certainly worked in jobs where we’ve had bullies, and have even been bullied. It is a hideously nasty experience.

But is NZ the 2nd worst in the world?

The survey cited does not appear to be representative. A 2010 article stated:

One in five Kiwi workers suffer from workplace bullying, one of the worst rates in the world.

The figures are revealed in a university survey released today.

A joint university research team – from Auckland, Waikato, Massey and London – polled more than 1700 workers from the health, education, hospitality and travel sectors asking how frequently they were exposed to “negative acts” at work.

Overall 17.8 per cent of respondents were identified as victims of bullying.

The international range was between 5 per cent and 20 per cent.

So this was a survey of people in four industries only. It was also a survey which was 80% female respondents and (sadly) women may get bullied more than men. Also the workplaces surveyed were not randomly selected. This doesn’t mean that it wasn’t valuable research, but it does mean that you can’t conclude that this is the prevalence rate for all NZ employees and most of all you can not safely compare it to overseas surveys.

David Lowe, of the Employers and Manufacturers Association, was sceptical of the survey, saying the “negative acts” research question was too wide.

“What people would normally describe as bullying and `two negative acts in the workplace’ are not one and the same,” Lowe said.

“If somebody had said to the person, `you’re not doing well enough, you need to do it better’, and told them that twice in one week, that might amount to bullying under this survey, but it is not bullying, it is simply running your business.”

The survey also posed a more direct “self-report” question asking whether respondents felt they were being bullied either “several times a week” or “almost daily” which yielded a smaller figure of 3.9 per cent.

So the definition of bullying is important. Is the one used in NZ the same as overseas?

Stats NZ does research on job satisfaction and has found 85.4% of employees satisfied (or very satisfied) in their main job and only 4.7% dissatisfied. I guess it is possible you can be bullied in a job and not dissatisfied but unlikely. So I think the 20% figure and 2nd worst in the world is not particularly sound as it was a survey of just four industries and had a massive gender skew.

Whatever the level, it is too high. But that doesn’t mean we need to conclude that NZ is a nastier place to work than other countries.

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