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Pink Shirt Day 2020 and workplace bullying

Today is Pink Shirt Day in Aotearoa – a day celebrated internationally with the aim of raising awareness about the impact of bullying.

Bullying is not just something that occurs in schools and with young people, but also happens across all sectors, age groups, and forums.  Bullying has increasingly been reported in the media and it seems that we are regularly faced with reports about bullying being a triggering factor leading to poor mental health.  As we are more connected to each other than ever before (and potentially more disconnected but that is a topic for another blog), as it becomes the norm to hide behind our keyboards and revel in the distance created by a screen, and as we are encouraged to no longer be “polite, compliant” people but rather be honest and authentic, it creates an environment where people can be less thoughtful in their communication and potentially less concerned about the impact of their words on others.

logoThe majority of the population will report feeling bullied at some time in their lives; many of us in our working lives.  Concerningly, workplace bullying has been shown to be a significant predictor of poor mental health and increases suicide risk. In fact, workplace bullying has been shown to triple the risk of suicide and double the chance of depression in employees [1].

Bullying can contribute to suicide risk in a number of ways;

  • it can make work, which can often be a source of enjoyment and achievement, seem unbearable and aversive.
  • bullying can contribute to a sense of worthlessness which is a key feature of depression.
  • being bullied results in people feeling ostracised and unsupported, it negatively impacts on perceived social support and can make people feel disconnected from their supports
  • bullying can negatively impact on productivity due to the psychological effects of being bullied such as poor concentration, poor memory, difficulty making decisions and increased stress.

So how does wearing a pink shirt help?

  • Wearing a pink shirt shows that you are someone that can be approached and may be offer support to someone who is being bullied.
  • Wearing a pink shirt can help people feel supported in an organisation if the organisation is supportive of anti-bullying activities such as pink shirt day.
  • Wearing a pink shirt can help someone who is feeling bullied feel as though they are not alone.

But wearing a pink shirt is not enough.  We need to walk the talk, ensure we speak up about bullying, we check in on our workmates, and that we have zero tolerance to workplace bullying.

As an organisation there is also a lot that you can do for Pink Shirt Day such as the activities found at pinkshirtday.org.nz/workplaces.  However, it is important that these activities are not only confined to Pink Shirt Day but are part of a strategic plan for workplace wellbeing. Having such a plan has been shown to improve the wellbeing of employees AND improve productivity and staff retention. 

But a good programme is not just celebrating and support significant days a couple of times a year, it includes understanding the unique challenges of your workplace, your staff, your customers and products and the resources already on hand. If you would like to hear more, get in touch. We are happy to help.


Liesje Donkin

Workplace Wellbeing Lead


1            Miller, P., et al., Bullying in Fly-In-Fly-Out employees in the Australian resources sector: A cross-sectional study. PLoS One, 2020. 15(3): p. e0229970.

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