No excuse for abuse – unacceptable behaviour towards council staff must stop

Publish Date : 16 Aug 2021
No Excuse

Auckland Council employees are frequently subjected to unacceptable behaviour, directed towards them by customers and members of the public. A new campaign, called ‘No excuse for abuse’, is designed to remind Aucklanders that council people are just like them and deserve their respect.

Chief Executive Jim Stabback says instances of harm, verbal and physical abuse, and anti-social behaviour towards our people are causing us increasing concern. This particularly affects those on the ‘frontline’ or in roles with regular contact with customers.

Examples of unacceptable behaviour range from online abuse, trolling and death threats, to spitting on people and physically intimidating them, to extreme verbal abuse and physical attacks.

“Our people perform a variety of vital functions for the communities they serve, yet they are subject to aggressive and threatening behaviour on a regular basis.

“Unsafe situations and unacceptable conduct are occurring in all areas of our work – down the phone, online, and in-person. Abuse is directed towards our building inspectors, lifeguards, animal management officers, rangers, librarians and customer services staff.

“We are calling out this behaviour and reminding people that the council employees they deal with when they pay their rates, collect their dog from a shelter, use a pool or library, or get a visit from a compliance officer, are Aucklanders just like them.

“Our people are mums and dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and grandparents; they’re members of community groups, sports teams and churches; volunteers, neighbours and part of the community they live in – and they don’t deserve to be treated with aggression, violence and disrespect,” says Mr Stabback.

Mr Stabback says the council continues to put more mechanisms in place for its people to escalate incidents, manage unsafe situations and report bad behaviour, and issues a warning to customers that persist.

“If you get turned away from one of our sites; if a situation you are involved in gets escalated to a more senior staff member or if one of our staff asks for help in dealing with you, they do that with my full support,” he says.

Methods of managing unacceptable behaviour include meeting to resolve the situation or creating a managed customer relationship, or stronger approaches like court action, trespass or working with Police on enforcement options. 

Where did this campaign come from?

In May 2021 Mr Stabback released a report on the policies, processes and procedures that support employee wellbeing at Auckland Council. The report findings included recommendations for improving and enhancing the support for staff in the area of wellbeing.

Mr Stabback made a public commitment to the wellbeing of his staff and highlighted one of the key recommendations in the report – to publicly support council staff who are being subjected to violent, aggressive, antisocial and unacceptable behaviour.

Read more about the council’s Wellbeing Review Report here.

About the campaign

“In developing ‘No excuse for abuse’ we have sought input from behaviour change experts and tested our approach with both our Hauora (Wellbeing) Challenger Group (that was developed out of the review) and a focus group of front-facing council staff from across the organisation.

“Their insights have been extremely valuable and our approach has been well supported,” says Jim.

“The campaign, accompanied by enhanced support mechanisms for our staff, demonstrates to our people that they do not have to tolerate violent or antisocial behaviour.

“It aims to create a more respectful relationship between Auckland Council employees and the public they serve.”

We will evaluate the success of the first phase of the ‘No excuse for abuse’ campaign and expect to develop it into an ongoing component of the council’s employee wellbeing programme.

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