An older woman is bul­ly­ing my son

The Invercargill Eye - - YOUR HEALTH - Q: My son has a good job on the check­out at our lo­cal su­per­mar­ket but he tells me he wants to quit be­cause an older woman on the staff is bul­ly­ing him. I’ve of­fered to help but he says he’s over it and he’ll find an­other job. He said that this su­per­vi­sor

You can in­ter­vene, but it would be more ben­e­fi­cial if you could con­vince your son to take this mat­ter fur­ther him­self, with your sup­port. This prob­lem usu­ally re­quires the fol­low­ing of cor­rect pro­ce­dures to be ef­fec­tive.

Per­haps start by re­as­sur­ing your son that he is en­ti­tled (as is ev­ery em­ployee in this coun­try) to a safe, non-dis­crim­i­na­tory work en­vi­ron­ment. He should un­der­stand that this bul­ly­ing su­per­vi­sor also has a boss, who has a le­gal obli­ga­tion to en­sure that his/her work­place is safe. ‘‘Un­safe’’ may seem an ex­treme word to im­ply but re­peated bul­ly­ing can lead to anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion. Hav­ing dis­grun­tled staff mem­bers leads to low pro­duc­tiv­ity, high ab­sen­teeism and a fast staff turnover.

Your son may not want the has­sle of go­ing through of­fi­cial chan­nels and it may seem eas­ier to quit and find an­other job in the short term, but let him know that his ac­tions could help other young peo­ple who don’t have any sup­port.

Get your son to doc­u­ment ex­am­ples of the per­ceived bul­ly­ing; where/when etc. He might find strength in num­bers so if he feels able to, he can doc­u­ment his co-work­ers (or other work­ers who have al­ready left the job). It’s some­times eas­ier to stand up to author­ity when you’re in a group.

I’m sure you’ll be aware that at this stage, the su­per­vi­sor is not guilty of bul­ly­ing; it is just your son’s opinion. She could be a hard taskmas­ter or an ‘‘old-school’’ su­per­vi­sor, or it could be that your son is not a good worker or adapt­able at getting on with all types in the work­place. Fol­low the process but don’t close your mind to other pos­si­bil­i­ties.

There are agen­cies where you can get free ad­vice to help you pro­ceed with sort­ing this mat­ter. Check out work­ or the Cit­i­zens Ad­vise Bureau on


An un­safe work en­vi­ron­ment will result in dis­grun­tled staff mem­bers which then leads to low pro­duc­tiv­ity, high ab­sen­teeism and a fast staff turnover.

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