Bullying rife in public service, report says
Barry O'Farrell ... welcomed the findings of the report. Photo: Peter Stoop
One in two public servants has witnessed bullying in the workplace according to a "warts and all" review of the NSW public sector.
The review found almost half - 48 per cent of people surveyed - had witnessed bullying at work. Almost a third - 29 per cent - said they had been bullied in the past 12 months and 6 per cent had formally complained about bullying behaviour.
It is likely that a proportion of what people perceive as bullying arises from the absence of good performance management practices and organisational culture
Premier Barry O'Farrell welcomed the report, released by the new Public Service Commissioner Graeme Head on Tuesday.
"This is the first time any government has had a thorough look at the NSW public sector - warts and all," Mr O'Farrell said.
Mr O'Farrell said that the report found a highly educated workforce, but a culture of bullying that needed to be addressed.
"It also highlights areas that need to be improved including workplace bullying, the focus on accountability, financial management expertise and workforce planning," he said.
Mr Head said the inaugural State of the NSW Public Sector Report was the most comprehensive review of the state's public sector and the first independent review of the public sector's performance.
More than 60,000, or 16 per cent of NSW government employees responded to the survey, which asked people about their views on core public sector values of trust, service, accountability and integrity.
"It is likely that a proportion of what people perceive as bullying arises from the absence of good performance management practices and organisational culture," Mr Head said.
WorkCover NSW describes workplace bullying as "repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety".
Vaughan Bowie, an adjunct fellow at the Univeristy of Western Sydney specialising in workplace bullying and aggression, said budget cuts would contribute to workers taking out their frustrations on colleagues and family.
Mr Bowie, who recently addressed an international conference on workplace violence in Vancouver, said a general increase in bullying was a result of a ‘‘trickle down in the organisational structure to the workers’’.
While some rogue workers could be singled out as bullies as a result of their mental health and upbringing, Mr Bowie said the recent upsurge was related to a toxic workplace culture.
‘‘Bullying has been around as long as humankind, but we are finding now in this current time a confluence of factors which is leading to more pointed workplace bullying and abuse,’’ he said.
‘‘I think this upsurge in violence has more to do with the toxic nature of various workplaces under the economic rationalist model where we are expecting more and more with less and less resources.
‘‘People can’t kick the organisation and take it out on each other or their parents or partners.’’
Mr Bowie said the NSW government’s recent error in underestimating its surplus by $1 billion would have left public servants feeling more angry and disgruntled in thinking they had been ‘‘hoodwinked in some way.’’
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