Updated: May 4, 2020
Friday 17 May 2019 was Pink Shirt Day.
Pink Shirt Day invites people to wear pink shirts to show they want to stop bullying behaviour by celebrating diversity and having positive relationships.
In Aotearoa New Zealand Pink Shirt Day comes with encouragement to ‘kōrero mai, kōrero atu, mauri tū, mauri ora – speak up, stand together, stop bullying’.
Two Canadian students started the idea in 2007 when they saw a schoolmate subjected to homophobic bullying for wearing a pink shirt to school. Their idea has become global, and is celebrated in schools and businesses.
I’ve experienced bullying in both of those settings.
As a schoolchild I was bullied after being moved up a class. The move made me different, which made me a target. The bullying came in the form of exclusion, whispering campaigns, and destruction of my class work. It wasn’t subtle, and it continued for the rest of the time I had to spend at that school.
As an employee I was bullied in a communications role. I was new and—in retrospect—a poor fit for the organisation. The bullying came in form of micromanagement, inundation, and constant criticism. It was subtle, and it definitely lead to me leaving the job.
Both cases of bullying ended when I was no longer in the bullies’ sphere of influence. Yet the events didn’t occur in isolation; we were often with classmates or colleagues, there were teachers and managers around. I didn’t talk about either case until it was finished and neither did anybody else.
Bullies rely on their victims to be silent. I like to think that I would now have the courage to speak up for myself. I’ve certainly spoken up for others.
If you’re looking for a chance to demonstrate leadership then consider what opportunities there are in your workplace to welcome newcomers, develop positive relationships, and respect difference. You’ll be taking the lead on preventing bullying.
Schools and workplaces can find information and resources online to help them recognise and respond to bullying. The Ministry of Education has resources for schools and teachers and Employment New Zealand has resources for workplaces.