According to a candid new report into the culture of the NSW public sector, job insecurity and budget cuts are to blame for a rise in workplace aggression in workplaces across the state.
Premier Barry O'Farrell said the report is the first time a government has had a thorough look at the NSW public sector, “warts and all” – and the findings are not pretty.
The review found almost half of all public servants (48%) had witnessed bullying at work, while almost a third (29%) said they had been bullied in the past 12 months. A further 6% had lodged a formal complaint about bullying behaviour.
O'Farrell yesterday welcomed the report by the new Public Service Commissioner, Graeme Head, and said that despite a finding that the workplace is highly educated, a culture of bullying urgently needs to be addressed. Head said the inaugural State of the NSW Public Sector Report was the most comprehensive and first independent review of NSW public sector performance.
More than 60,000, or 16%, of NSW government employees responded to a survey which asked for their views on 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,” Head said.
Adjunct fellow at the University of Western Sydney specialising in workplace bullying and aggression, Vaughan Bowie, told the Sydney Morning Herald that budget cuts would have contributed to workers taking out frustration on colleagues and family. Bowie added that an increase in bullying was a result of the ‘trickle down’ effect. While some workers could be singled out as being inherent bullies by nature, the recent upsurge was related to a fundamentally toxic workplace culture, Bowie said. “'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.”
Related story: Turn around a toxic work culture