Workplace bullying more harmful than sexual harassment

Workplace bullying may inflict more harm on employees than on-the-job sexual harassment, according to a recent research study. Researchers presented their findings earlier this month at the Seventh International Conference on Work, Stress and Health.

Bullying includes persistently criticizing employees’ work, yelling, repeatedly reminding employees of mistakes, spreading gossip or lies, ignoring or excluding workers, and insulting employees’ habits, attitudes or private life.

Both sexual harassment and bullying will create negative environments at work, but bullying may create the most negative of the two. Employees who experienced bullying were more likely to quit their jobs, have lower well-being, be less satisfied with their jobs and have less satisfying relations with their bosses than employees who were sexually harassed, according to the researchers.

Bullied employees also reported more job stress, less job commitment and higher levels of anger and anxiety.

“Bullying is often more subtle, and may include behaviors that do not appear obvious to others," said lead author M. Sandy Hershcovis, PhD, of the University of Manitoba. “For instance, how does an employee report to their boss that they have been excluded from lunch? Or that they are being ignored by a coworker? The insidious nature of these behaviors makes them difficult to deal with and sanction.”

How do you deal with and document harassment in the workplace? The “Ask an HR Expert” section of answers the question.

First, take a preventative stance and have a strong “zero-tolerance” harassment policy. Train managers and employees on the specifics of your policy. If harassment does occur, start an investigation immediately.

See the full entry.

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