The Fox in Charge of the Henhouse - By Karen Davis

In December 2019 we reported on an upcoming Employment Court hearing where a DHB and its former employee were suing each other. The ex-employee’s claim is for unjustified disadvantage and unjustified dismissal. The DHB’s claim against the ex-employee (and her advocate) arose from an interview with Radio NZ, and reporting of stalking by a manager which were claimed to be a breach of his privacy.

In what appears to be an attempt to cover up his stalking behaviour, that same manager went on to publish the following on the DHB’s website in mid-2019; this was several months before the stalking photos were provided to us:

Bullying, Incivility and Psychological Safety

With this being (a milestone) I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about bullying, incivility and Psychological safety.

A couple of weeks ago it was Pink Shirt Day which for me serves as an annual reminder of the journey we began in 2016 to eradicate workplace bullying from our DHB. Many of you will have seen that there has been much media attention on what is going on around behaviours in Parliament and an important statement of expectations from the State Services Commission around public sector organisations has been released. Peter Hughes, the Commissioner, states:

“Public Servants must be able to raise concerns without fear of punishment or reprisal. If Public Servants raised genuine concerns through proper channels and were then disadvantaged in any way because of it, that would be completely unacceptable and something I view very seriously.”

Under the Creating our Culture strategic priority we’ve made some major steps forward in the last three years including: • Many Creating our Culture workshops to explore together what we want our experience of work to be • Redefining our CARE values and the behaviours that are not ok with us • Launching our handbook on workplace behaviours • Encouraging people to talk through issues and resolve early (e.g. using BUILD) • Joining the Speaking up Safely programme

These are foundations for the future rather than solutions in themselves and now we’re preparing to move into the next phase of Creating our Culture linked to the findings of our Evolution Discovery phase.

In my group sessions with teams at the end of last year it became evident that there is still confusion about what workplace bullying actually is and so this is a good time to clarify. At BOPDHB we use the national MBIE definition as our formal definition of workplace bullying which is:

Workplace bullying is: repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that can lead to physical or psychological harm. > Repeated behaviour is persistent (occurs more than once) and can involve a range of actions over time. > Unreasonable behaviour means actions that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would see as unreasonable. It includes victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening a person. > Bullying may also include harassment, discrimination or violence (see Section 4 of this guide for how these are dealt with).

Note: The bullying definition is adapted form Safe Work Australia's definition

Workplace bullying is not: > one-off or occasional instances of forgetfulness, rudeness or tactlessness > setting high performance standards > constructive feedback and legitimate advice or peer review > a manager requiring reasonable verbal or written work instructions to be carried out > warning or disciplining workers in line with the business or undertaking's code of conduct > a single incident of unreasonable behaviour > reasonable management actions delivered in a reasonable way > differences in opinion or personality clashes that do not escalate into bullying, harassment or violence.


While this definition sets a clear and helpful benchmark for what constitutes bullying, it’s also obvious that it does not include a range of situations that people might encounter at work that make them feel uncomfortable, hurt or distressed.

This article for hospital employees appears to be PR-driven and generic without examples of areas of concern, allowing plenty of wriggle room if called out. The fact that an alleged stalker was tasked with writing it is a little scary!

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