9 Jun 2021

Bullying in the boardroom a common problem, survey shows

4:08 pm on 9 June 2021

Almost a third of business directors have experienced or witnessed bullying in the boardroom, a new survey shows.

Manager hand on the table with being stressed about the work of the staff.

Photo: 123rf

The Institute of Directors survey of 250 members found 31 percent had been bullied or had witnessed bullying.

More than half the respondents said their boards did not have policies to deal with bullying or they were unsure if policies existed.

The survey was prompted by an opinion piece by institute member and professional director Craig Stobo about an incident where a fellow board member resigned after being bullied.

The article led to a webcast about abusive behaviour among directors and resulted in many participants revealing they had shared similar experiences.

Institute chief executive Kirsten Patterson said the results highlighted the need to have a conversation about the culture of boardrooms.

"Research that came out of Massey University last year ... indicated that of the broader workforce, 40 percent have either seen or experienced bullying, so I think our boards are reflective of our business community," Patterson said.

Although it was necessary for directors to challenge one another, bullying was unreasonable behaviour that was repeated, she said.

The survey found 63 percent of directors would feel comfortable challenging toxic behaviour if it arose on any of their boards and 23 percent would challenge bullying on some of their boards.

Patterson acknowledged that different directors had different ideas of what amounted to unwelcome behaviour - and that made the issue challenging to address.

She said the institute would continue to share anecdotes and resources to help improve the culture of company boards.

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