Challenging Bullying Culture

"Everyone deserves a workplace where they feel safe and respected"

PSA has contributed to new public service standards setting expectations that workplaces be safe and respectful - and will hold agencies to account for meeting them


The States Services Commission’s Positive and Safe Workplaces Standards emphasise the importance of strong leadership, fostering good working relationships, and having trusted policies and procedures to create a culture that exposes and addresses inappropriate behaviour.

This will help prevent a range of unlawful or offensive activities such as bullying, harassment and discrimination.

The standards come after research undertaken by the PSA in collaboration with Victoria University found 43% of public servants had experienced bullying at work and a third had experienced discrimination.



That’s no surprise to Aleeta Hau, who became a PSA delegate after she began experiencing behaviour that was not reflective of her agency’s values.

“At the time I believed I became a target with certain members of the management team because I had identified and questioned changes that had been made that put our staff at risk,” she says.

“So I chose to become a delegate so I could help other people who may find themselves in a similar position.”

Since then she has heard dozens of similar stories.

“A high percentage of feedback from members has been around how managers have treated staff. Situations where managers have taken them aside, and no one is witness to what could be seen as unacceptable or inappropriate behaviour.” 


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PSA delegate Aleeta Hau



PSA organiser Caz Thomson says while bullying cases can be hard to prove, changing workplace cultures can be effective.

“Taking a more restorative approach and saying how do we change from a focus on the behaviour we don’t want, to the behaviour we do want. What values and behaviours do we support in workplaces?”

Caz says PSA workshops on this approach have had positive results at Capital and Coast District Health Board, and the DHB is now running similar worshops itself.

But she stresses the need for everyone to play a role to help change workplace cultures.

“One of the changes is that people have to call out behaviour when they see it, and be supported by their colleagues to do so.”



Minimising workplace violence, bullying and harassment is an important strategic goal for the PSA.

The new SSC standards are consistent with our approach which highlights that unwanted workplace behaviours are products not just of individual workplace relationships, but also organisational systems, cultures and management approach.

As a union we have a role to play in prevention by helping to change cultures, providing effective responses when cases are reported, and supporting a restorative approach once issues are resolved.

 “The safety of our members is our top priority,” says national secretary Glenn Barclay.

“Everyone deserves a workplace where they feel safe and respected.”


For more on the SSC standards go to: