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Interview: Dr Natalia D'Souza talks about Workplace Bullying


Workplace Bullying takes a hard look at a very dubious workplace practice.

Staff become demoralised, lose trust and confidence in your organisation, and often ultimately leave. Often ignored or swept under the carpet, workplace bullying causes huge financial losses in the corporate world and robs companies of talent. More importantly, it can destroy the career paths of many excellent employees and make your organisation a very unappealing place to work.


In this revitalised edition of Workplace Bullying by ground-breaking New Zealand human resource expert Andrea W. Needham, we take a hard look at a very dubious workplace practice. Editor Dr Natalia D'Souza talks to NZ Booklovers.


Tell us a little about Workplace Bullying.

Workplace bullying refers unwanted and repeated behaviours, ranging from belittling, undermining, and withholding behaviours to verbal and psychological abuse. Sometimes these behaviours can be so covert that it may initially be difficult for the person (‘target’) to identify their experience as workplace bullying. Sadly, over time workplace bullying takes a huge toll on targets and their families, other people in the workplace who witness it, as well as the organisation itself. These costs – both personal and financial – are discussed in the book.


Can you tell us about Andrea Needham, the author of the book, and her legacy?

Andrea Needham was a Human Resource consultant who had a vast amount of experience working both locally and overseas, particularly in the area of leadership. Andrea believed that the key to preventing and managing workplace bullying was having good, courageous leadership in organisations. The original 2003 book Workplace Bullying: A Costly Business Secret was one of the first pieces of work to bring the issue of workplace bullying into the public psyche, and in many ways she was a pioneer in this area. Through the Andrea Needham Leadership Charitable Trust, and in the release of this revised edition, we hope to be able to carry on her legacy and do her proud.


What inspired you to be involved on the revised edition?

The Healthy Work Group at Massey University (founded by two of the editors; Tim and Bevan) has been engaged in research on workplace bullying for a decade now, and was involved in the development of the WorkSafe Bullying Prevention Guidelines. When the Andrea Needham Trust reached out with an opportunity to revise this seminal book, it felt like the perfect partnership.


What research was involved?

Due to our combined expertise in the area of workplace bullying, cyberbullying, and violence, we were already familiar with much of the academic literature in this area. We have so much more evidence-based knowledge on workplace bullying now, so we have included those insights in this revised edition. We also updated relevant legislation and resources, where needed. At the same time, we also worked really hard to make sure Andrea’s voice came through strongly in this book.


What was your routine or process when editing this book, and how did you work with the other editors?

Our editorial process involved a lot of meetings – both with the other editors and with the Needham Trust – to pin down the direction and tone of this book early on. We worked collaboratively on an online word document, and were able to get valuable input and feedback from members of the Trust throughout the process. There was also a lot of coffee involved!


What are three key messages from the book?

Workplace bullying is incredibly harmful and costly for both targets as well as organisations.

Workplace bullying can occur in all jobs, occupations, and anyone can become a target.

The key to prevention and effective management of workplace bullying is good leadership, which includes having the required management competencies and being able to create a healthy workplace culture.


What did you enjoy the most about editing this book?

While the other two editors had previously met Andrea, I unfortunately hadn’t had the pleasure. I had heard a lot about Andrea through Bevan and Tim, as well as through members of the Trust – in particular John and Cathie – but in re-reading and editing the book I felt like I really got to know Andrea. That is one of the things that comes through most strongly in the tone of the book: her passion on the subject of preventing and managing workplace bullying.


What did you do to celebrate when the new book was launched?

We had a little celebration within the Healthy Work Group, and of course the Trust and Massey University were incredibly supportive in helping us get the word out about this book.


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

I really enjoyed reading Reproductive Justice by Loretta Ross and Rickie Solinger, as it offered a unique intersectional feminist framework toward ending violence in society more broadly, particularly since these issues becoming increasingly topical.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

The goal is always to do work in this area that has an impact for the better. I’m currently doing some research on workplace cyberbullying, which is a relatively new form of workplace bullying, and the Healthy Work Group will be rolling out a nation-wide tool for monitoring the health and wellbeing of workplaces: the New Zealand Workplace Barometer.


Workplace Bullying published by Andrea Needham Leadership Charitable Trust

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