EAPs: Bullying is Worse than Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
The American Psychological Association says that Bullying in the Workplace is worse than sexual harassment. Below is the press release issued Saturday, March 8, 2008. (Weekend press releases get less media attention, so don't be surprised if you didn't hear about it.)
EAPs to be on top of this issue. This issue will grow longer legs in coming years. At least 13 states are working on legislation to intervene with workplace bullying.
If this news hits the air waves in your town, consider contacting a local media outlet and let them know you have an expert who can comment on the story. Better yet, knock on their door. Here's the press release:
BULLYING MORE HARMFUL THAN SEXUAL HARASSMENT ON THE JOB, SAY RESEARCHERS
Workplace bullying, such as belittling comments, persistent
criticism of work and withholding resources, appears to inflict more harm on
employees than sexual harassment, say researchers who presented their findings
at a conference today.
“As sexual harassment becomes less acceptable in
society, organizations may be more attuned to helping victims, who may therefore
find it easier to cope,” said lead author M. Sandy Hershcovis, PhD, of the
University of Manitoba.
“In contrast, non-violent forms of workplace
aggression such as incivility and bullying are not illegal, leaving victims to
fend for themselves.” This finding was presented at the Seventh International
Conference on Work, Stress and Health, co-sponsored by the American
Psychological Association, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and
Health and the Society for Occupational Health Psychology.
co-author Julian Barling, PhD, of Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada,
reviewed 110 studies conducted over 21 years that compared the consequences of
employees’ experience of sexual harassment and workplace
Specifically, the authors looked at the effect on job,
co-worker and supervisor satisfaction, workers’ stress, anger and anxiety levels
as well as workers’ mental and physical health. Job turnover and emotional ties
to the job were also compared.
The authors distinguished among different
forms of workplace aggression. Incivility included rudeness and discourteous
verbal and non-verbal behaviors. Bullying included 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. Interpersonal conflict included behaviors that
involved hostility, verbal aggression and angry exchanges.
and sexual harassment can create negative work environments and unhealthy
consequences for employees, but the researchers found that workplace aggression
has more severe consequences. Employees who experienced bullying, incivility or
interpersonal conflict 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, the researchers
Furthermore, bullied employees reported more job stress, less job
commitment and higher levels of anger and anxiety. No differences were found
between employees experiencing either type of mistreatment on how satisfied they
were with their co-workers or with their work.
“Bullying is often more
subtle, and may include behaviors that do not appear obvious to others,” said
Hershcovis. “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
From a total of 128 samples that were used, 46 included
subjects who experienced sexual harassment, 86 experienced workplace aggression
and six experienced both. Sample sizes ranged from 1,491 to 53,470 people.
Participants ranged from 18 to 65 years old. The work aggression samples
included both men and women.
The sexual harassment samples examined
primarily women because, Hershcovis said, past research has shown that men
interpret and respond differently to the behaviors that women perceive as sexual
Presentation: Comparing the Outcomes of Sexual Harassment and
Workplace Aggression: A Meta-Analysis, M. Sandy Hershcovis, PhD, University of
Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba and Julian Barling, Queen’s University, Ontario,
Canada; Saturday, March 8, 8:00 – 9:30 AM, Regency Ballroom – B6 M. Sandy
Hershcovis, PhD can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by
phone at (204) 474-9951
The American Psychological Association, in
Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization
representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest
association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 148,000
researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students.
divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state,
territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance
psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human
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Pamela Willenz Manager APA Public Affairs Office 202-336-5707