Nurses learn how to keep bullying at bay

December 1, 2020

About 30 nurses discussed bullying and different communication styles at an NZNO forum on navigating workplace relationships in Hamilton last month.

According to WorkSafe, bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group that can lead to physical or psychological harm. It is not one-off instances of rudeness, unreasonable behaviour, tactlessness or a difference in opinion. Nor is it constructive feedback, high performance expectations, warnings or discipline in line with workplace policy.


Bullying tactics can range from the very subtle – such as eye-rolling – to very obvious, such as physical and verbal abuse.


Poor communication styles, too, can lead to perceptions of bullying and cause harm.

Individuals, teams and managers all have responsibilities for managing and preventing bullying. Workplaces need clear standards of safe behaviour, modelled by managers who are prepared to act on complaints. A truly safe workplace ensures bullying at any level is removed or stopped from becoming part of a workplace culture in the first place.

Though serious, the topic was well-received with strong participation from nurses. Much of the discussion was drawn from work done by NZNO Organiser Deb Chappell and Massey University researcher Kate Blackwell.


We finished the evening on a more positive note, learning about pre-cognitive communication.

A TED (technology, entertainment & design) presentation by New Zealand lawyer Amy Scott described her “dots” communication tool, which suggests four styles: Organised (yellow), sensitive (blue), direct (red) and ideas (purple).


The aim was to identify our own and others’ predominant communication styles, to quickly get on the same wavelength.

Report by NZNO professional nursing adviser Annette Bradley-Ingle, who presented at the forum.