10 March 2008

CANADIAN STUDY on Bullying and Sexual Harassment

Workplace Bullying effects underestimated: Study

Updated Sat. Mar. 8 2008 8:40 AM ET

The Canadian Press

TORONTO -- Workers who are subjected to putdowns, continuous criticism or off-colour remarks while on the job could be dealing with something more serious than a temporary blow to the ego, a new study suggests.

Findings from two Canadian researchers indicate workplace bullying appears to be more harmful to employees than those experiencing sexual harassment.

Study authors Sandy Hershcovis of the University of Manitoba and Julian Barling from Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., reviewed 110 studies conducted over 21 years that looked at sexual harassment and workplace aggression, which includes bullying, incivility and interpersonal conflict.

From a total of 128 samples used with sizes ranging from 1,491 to 53,470 people, 46 included subjects who experienced sexual harassment, 86 experienced workplace aggression, while six experienced both.

The studies selected examined workplace aggression and sexual harassment in relation to one or more specific outcomes like job satisfaction, stress, turnover and psychological health.

While researchers found both bullying and sexual harassment can lead to negative on-the-job environments and unhealthy consequences for employees, it was cases involving workplace aggression where more severe consequences surfaced.

Workers who were bullied, experienced incivility or dealt with interpersonal conflict were more likely to leave their jobs and have a lessened well-being, researchers said.

They were also less satisfied with their jobs and enjoyed less satisfying relationships with their superiors than workers who were sexually harassed.

Hershcovis said the findings were both surprising and unexpected.

"I think the assumption going in would for sure have been that sexual harassment was going to have worse outcomes than workplace aggression just because of the moral taint associated with sexual harassment,'' she said in an interview from Washington where the paper was being presented at the Seventh International Conference on Work, Stress and Health Saturday.

Hershcovis said a question for future researchers to explore are the reasons workplace aggression appears to have stronger adverse effects.

One possible reason offered in the paper is that victims of sexual harassment have more outlets at their disposal.

"It's illegal, so they can sue the company. They can report, they can try to grieve it if they have a union,'' Hershcovis said. "There are a number of ways that they can try to respond to this negative behaviour, whereas workplace aggression really doesn't have that available.''

Quebec was the first jurisdiction in Canada to introduce legislation outlawing workplace bullying.

The amendment to the Quebec Labour Standards Act, which took effect in June 2004, outlaws "vexatious behaviour'' that takes the form of repeated insults, vulgar remarks or gestures that are offensive, demeaning and undermine a person's self-esteem.

Gerry Smith, vice-president of organizational health and training for Shepell.fgi, first worked as an employee assistance program counsellor with the company in the 1990s.

He said workplace bullying takes a "huge toll'' on individuals facing it, and can recall dealing with many cases over the years where those being targeted became very stressed out.

"They're still productive and they still do their job, but they go home at night, they don't sleep, they don't eat,'' said Smith, whose company provides support around mental, physical and social health to some 8.5 million employees at 6,000 Canadian companies.

"They develop an obsession around it and mainly because they have to face the same kind of behaviour every single day in their workplace because it's relentless. The bully is relentless. They just won't let go until somebody stands up to them and tells them they've got to stop it.''

Smith, author of "Work Rage,'' said the best strategy for individuals who find themselves subject to workplace aggression is to go straight to the source, challenge the behaviour and state their expectations for the future that it won't continue.

"Now, that's very difficult to empower people to do that because lots of people think it might not be a career-enhancing move -- especially if the offender is your boss,'' he said.

"So if it's the case go to your boss' boss. It's that simple. And nowadays, the person who's in a position of superiority has to take the complaint seriously.''

"You have to set up a process within your organization where a person can make a legitimate complaint and know that that complaint is going to be handled discreetly, effectively and without recrimination or reprisal."

source: CTV.ca

COMMENTS - Bullying and sexual harassment

The findings of a Canadian study, reported here, are confronting.

Combing through 128 samples with sizes ranging from 1491 to 53,470 people, the researchers found that workplace bullying had more severe consequences than sexual harassment.

At first, I thought this couldn't be right Both are bad so why even compare? On the other hand, there are many workplaces where processes are in place to deal with sexual harassment. Fewer have processes to handle workplace bullying.

But then, both would take a massive toll. And in any case, sexual harassment is a form of bullying.

What's your take on the study? Have these been issues at your workplace? How has it been handled?

There are only 2 men in our office, and only one is a straight male over 45 and in a senior position.

His behaviour borders on inappropriateness but once alcohol has been consumed, his true colours come out and he is know for once having made comments about the breasts of some of the younger members of staff at a lunch.

What disappointed me was that by Monday senior staff (including my female boss and the offender) were behaving as though it had never happened. He wasn't repremanded because he is a senior member of staff and has extremely valuable knowledge.

  • Posted by: female dominated office on March 13, 2008 10:28 AM

Absolutely no surprise at all at the results and suspect it may understate the problem. I have seen it at a number of places (typically large corporate) and in each case the damage to the corporation was always far reaching. The unfortunate part is that management will attract and appoint these people (how many times do you see ad's with "Will do whatever it takes to get job done?") and once they realise their error, if they actually ever do, then they do nothing about it because a) the job gets "done," b) for them to sack the person typically costs a lot, c) people appoint others on the strength that they identify with them and d) they are publically acknowledging they made a mistake in appointing the person in the first place.

As John Clarke points out in his book, "Working with Monsters," in most, if not practically all, cases the easiest thing to do is change jobs. The bad guy wins.

In answer to your questions, the problem is understated, I have seen these issues a number of times and inevitably they have been handled really poorly. Sad but true

  • Posted by: John on March 13, 2008 10:57 AM

Although it doesn't always seem like it, I'm convinced that my boss fits the description of 'bully'. She's the passive aggressive sort so you very rarely see her doing anything that fits the 'bully' definition, but some of the sneaky behind-the-back stuff is quite nasty.

I'm scared to approach her with things that are part of my job. I'm scared to tell the directors what she's like because I already know they get told different stories to what the staff know is happening (and are happier with her version of events). And I'm scared to tell other staff members what she's capable of because you never know who the office informers are (although I already know one and it was quite a surprise, let me tell you!)

Just like John @ 10:57 AM says, the bad guy always wins. Instead of fighting, I'm on the lookout for a new role.
It really is easier.

  • Posted by: Sarah on March 13, 2008 12:28 PM

You think it's just "work place" as in the real world? There was once a "boss" who told a staff that a meeting was delayed by an hour, and when the staff arrived an hour later at the meeting, he found out that the meeting was not delayed at all. This boss just made very good use of this hour to say bad things about the staff (and a lot of these "bad things" were made up). Have you seen something this stupid? We have! And it happened in the academia! You would think "smart people" don't do disgusting things like this!

  • Posted by: Princess on March 13, 2008 1:12 PM

What do you do when those who bully are the same ones that are entrusted to enforce the policy/law? I've worked at a uni where the management in HR is the biggest bullies of them all!
A particular manager has been in the senior role for more than 20 years and although she has been "pulled up" a number of times, has never been properly dealt with. Meanwhile, staff turnover is phenomenal and the department is a joke to the rest of the workforce.

Then there are those senior researchers who get away with bullying staff because they bring in plenty of research money and have an international reputation.

What a mess.

  • Posted by: anon on March 13, 2008 1:16 PM

HR would have to be the biggest problem to deal with rather than a senior staff male member being too sexually suggestive.

I had all the evidence and filed a complaint. HR said that they had dealt with it and fired him. I was a contractor at the time. I found out six months later that he was still working there when I called to see if they had in fact, fired him. I guess they'd lied to me at the time, so I wouldn't take it further. He kept his job and I got blacklisted from further contracts.

My opinion of HR is that they are truly the scum of the earth. Never to be trusted.

  • Posted by: ?????? on March 13, 2008 1:56 PM

I worked on an international aid program in Asia managed by three different contracting firms. Each firm has contributed their own international staff. We're supposed to be a team. The Finance Manager (who has no formal training in finance!) is truly a classic bully. If a report is wrong he screams and rants at local staff. Local staff can be found in the office at 2a.m re-doing reports. Chairs have been thrown across rooms, petty cash tin smashed into the wall, staff made to mop the floor when they turned up late to a meeting. He calls it engendering good discipline.

And despite having a code of conduct nothing is done. When raised directly with project management and with the managing contractor we were told there was a 'vandetta' against him.

So, not only is he incompetent, he's a bully on the loose. The disgusting thing is that it is taxpayer's money keeping him in this job. DISGUSTING.

  • Posted by: Disappointed on March 13, 2008 2:20 PM

To read Sarah's comments about the bullying she is experiencing at work, brings back the psychological trauma of my experiences. And this is a common legacy for those who have been bullied. The pain and suffering can revisit you, many years after. As hard as it may feel, I would encourage someone who is being bullied to talk with others about what is happening. We often take it on ourselves and think "it's just me", but these people do not work in isolation, and there is generally a pattern of behaviour. That can be established by talking to others. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to a bully but when you are thinking of leaving a job, the legacy you can leave behind is perhaps tackling the abominable behaviour so that it does not happen to others. Worksafe introduced bullying as a workplace safety issue some years back - it has a definition, employers have obligations and there are strategies for dealing with it. It is abuse of power and they should not be allowed to get away with it, but be held accountable.

  • Posted by: bulliedB4 on March 13, 2008 2:24 PM

Having worked for a large Victorian University, I have to say they are the worst. They make an absolute mockery of their bullying policy. They pay it lip service with no real intention of following anything through or discipling their staff who bring in research dollars. They waffle on about needing "evidence" even though many, many reports from staff members never seems to suffice. The only way out is to leave which I've done and they bully is left to continue her wrath (and in my experience it is always the women managers) to the next poor person. I just hope one day this particular Uni gets it's butt sued off for allowing bullying to go on unchecked.

  • Posted by: sick of it on March 13, 2008 3:28 PM

From my experience across the years, doctors (GPs and surgeons) are the biggest bullies. Doctors also do not like it when their staff take sick leave - with medical certificate presented and are more likely than not to refuse to pay workcover claims.

The last time I took sick leave, the doctor claimed that he had 2 QCs he would use !! to prevent me making my illness into a workcover issue ...in case I had thought of doing so. Yeah sure...

So much for those who take an oath to "do no harm"....

Rhetorically, how can doctors who abuse their staff or behave obnoxiously to their staff, in front of patients - be capable of counselling their patients?

Amazingly, I have also met a psychologist or few, who are amongst the most difficult patients in terms of bullying reception staff into doing things which the reception staff have been instructed NOT to do by medical staff.

Some people think that they are above the law and the only way todeal with them is to prove them wrong.

  • Posted by: standup on March 13, 2008 3:48 PM

I deal with this problem on a daily basis simply because the long term (10 years) employee is threatened by the new, quick and talented new girl.
I feel sorry for her, but it doesn't give her the right to deny me certain things and talk me down to other staff simply because I am doing my job. I know it is not personal, any person who accepted my position would cope exactly the same treatment - she is just insecure. She has had me in tears several times over a year and very very close to launching a bullying complaint with HR. Instead - my two bosses have recommended to me to stick it out, be the bigger person and just deal with her threats, non answering every email I send, her refusal to assist me with the simpliest of tasks and her questioning every little thing I do.
I love my job otherwise.

It's a catch 22 - I am damned if I fight back - she has 10 years with the company on her side and I would be the new girl who caused trouble, so I sit back, cover my own behind and make darn sure I do everything in my power to do my job right and prove myself. Which I am doing. Should it be satisfaction enough to see the envy on her face????

  • Posted by: Efficient PA on March 13, 2008 4:12 PM

I worked for long established Melbourne "family" company for a short while where bullying was seen as being the normal and anything else abnormal.

When I had finally had enough and confronted the Director that I reported to and said "I did not like the way he spoke to me" he replied (and I will never forget the exchange) "He would speak to me any ******* way he liked". He then sacked me on the spot and escorted me to my office to clean out my desk under his supervision and leave the building immediately, not even allowed to say goodbye to my fellow workers.

Didn't get paid either, was told that if I wanted my pay I would have to "take them to court".

This all occurred not that long ago. Over it now, I look back on it and laugh.

  • Posted by: Jason on March 13, 2008 4:26 PM

They waffle on about needing "evidence" even though many, many reports from staff members never seems to suffice.

Posted by: sick of it on March 13, 2008 3:28 PM

Evidence is often the sticking point. Lack of it lets HR off the hook (they don't like to confront bullies, so they find excuses for inaction). So get the evidence. Contrive a situation where you can obtain a recording of the situation. I worked with a woman who was being sexually harassed by her boss for over a year. She secretly recorded over a dozen encounters with him, took the tape to HR, and said "Either he goes, or I put this tape on the web as an example of a sexual harasser who doesn't get dealt with". Basically, she made it harder for HR to do nothing than to do something. Faced with the evidence, the harasser resigned.

  • Posted by: Rob on March 13, 2008 5:03 PM

all the others joining in and doing the dirty work.I dont know when the organisational culture became so toxic.I never realised that ordinary people are so dishonest and corrupt.
The conspiracy if silence means evil occurs.

  • Posted by: barbarella on March 13, 2008 5:38 PM

I have just spent 10 months being bullied by my manager. I reported the problem 4 months ago and supplied extracts from my diary to my district executive and HR, and was then subjected to hours of interrogation - fair enough as I was the accuser and the burden of proof was on me. Trouble is, I had to also defend myself as my manager declared that I was the problem. Strangely enough, she not once referred to a diary but was able to recall conversations held six months prior, and quoted them verbatim. My doctor recommended that I be moved within the context of my employment (i.e. away from my manager) and so I was.. but from then on I was excluded socially and professionally. It has damaged my reputation hugely but she has been moved from a people management role to an account management role in another location and now has no direct reports. I think that's a tacit admission of guilt and a passive attempt by the district executive to discipline her.
I look back now and realise that my work didn't suffer at all during that period, in fact I got the best performance review of my career. If I knew then what I know now, I would have stood up to her a lot sooner.

  • Posted by: Miss Bee on March 13, 2008 8:08 PM

I have to agree with standup's comments about Doctor's being the worst offenders of bullying in the workplace. I have been on workcover since Nov 2006 due to a oversea's trained doctor who sexually harassed me and bullied me. I was the Clinical Manager and he was a muslim who resented the fact I was in charge and was abusive and violent on occasions. The management refused to support me and bullied me in order to be quiet as it was hard to Doctor's and he was more important than me. it got so bad that I went to the police for advice and then reported the matter to the Medical Board. Management then stripped me of all duties stating they had many complaints against me, but were unable to come up with the complaints on many occasions. I had to go on workcover and have not worked since and will never return to nursing again. I have never had a psychiatric history, but now I am on anti depressants, valium and sleeping tablets which I don't take because they don't work - hence why I am typing this at 4am in the morning!!! I have one child, and moved in with my brother and his daughter 6 months ago as I was frightened of my own shadow. I have always been a strong independent women who always has worked, but now I cannot bear to be around people. I suffer anxiety when the phone rings, someone knocks at the door or if people approach me whilst shopping. I am afraid all the time and I cannot understand where this fear has come from as I have always been a rational person. I guess bullying someone to the point that they lock their office door whilst at work has a lot to do with it. The Doctor in question continues with his career and bad behaviour and my nursing career of 21 years is over. It also does not help with workcover repeatedly telling you to go back to nursing or you will be cut off from payments. The shortage of Doctor's in Australia make's it virtually impossible for action to be taken against a Doctor and all that happens is they are moved to a different town. It will only get worse when Australia recruits another estimated 2500 Oversea's Trained Doctor's. The Doctor who did this to me had not practiced for 10 years as a Doctor, but Australia registered him. Seriously what is wrong with us? Put money into more incentives for our own Aussies to want to practice medicine, especially in rural and remote area's. Surely Australian's health and workplaces deserve better than second rate doctor's from oversea's hurriedly registered in order to fill a shortage?

  • Posted by: Saddened on March 14, 2008 4:07 AM

I was constantly bullied by this women who to this day works for a contractor/developer and she was absolutely the most horrid and difficult person to work with ever. I understand she probably use to have ambitions (now that she has gold digged her way into a marriage) and wanted to compete with the males, but it was unbelievable the things she use to do and get away manipulating situations and people.

I presevered for 4 years with the situation thinking it would get better and my boss would try to get me a project that didn't involve her. It just got worse as I stayed on.

I got so depressed as a result of her constant bullying, forcing me to tell on colleages to my manager to get them fired, grabbing my arm and calling me stupid etc. At the time I was very young and still fresh out of uni learning the ropes. It was absolutely the worst time in my life and I still to this day am affected by those actions.

I don't understand why companies who has 'respect' and 'integrity' as apart of their mission statement would keep employing people like that or even consider them.

  • Posted by: Being bullied on March 14, 2008 6:58 AM

A few years back, I took a job for a large government corporation whose track record on bullying and harassment is public knowledge. My boss turned out to be someone with a personality disorder and whose behaviour bordered on the psychotic. Certainly this person undermined me at every available opportunity. When performance appraisal time came around, the experience was so bad that I required counselling, which the company paid for. Perf. appraisals are not supposed to be a surprise for either party. For me, I ended up in tears, totally humiliated in front of this person who just laughed at the behaviour being displayed. It says a lot about the company who did not renew my contract when it came up for review yet kept on the psycho-boss. It made me really think about any behaviours I may have displayed to contribute to the situation and am now very sensitised to bullying and harassment. Sometimes bullying is only a fine line; other times, it's the Gulf of Carpentaria!
Burnt by Bullying.

  • Posted by: Marian on March 14, 2008 7:27 AM

I have just left a casual front desk role at a local hotel - that was 2 weeks ago - since then another 2 have left - over the years countless others all for the same reason - a monster of an office manager whose moods make life a misery for hotel staff - the original bully who saves her in your face put downs and insults for when hotel owners are away - who for some reason has absolute support of the owners because she is the accounts payable guru. They just don't get it.

  • Posted by: Mary Halfpenny on March 14, 2008 8:51 AM

my suggestion: show that you are being bullied ie stress shows, worried, change in work patterns, change in demeanor. A good supervisor should detect this and ask what the issue is. Because they approach you, they are initiating the issue. If they dont detect, leave the company as they have nil people skills.

  • Posted by: smile on March 14, 2008 10:08 AM

Employees experiencing harassment, bullying or discrimination are encouraged to report it rather than 'blaming themselves'. My experience is that when you do report it, all the fine-sounding policies count for nought, particularly when the perpetrators are senior staff. HR departments close ranks around senior management, and in the process, effectively betray the staff they claim to protect. Is this the ultimate conflict of interest? I, like 'sick of it', work for a large organisation with impeccable policies and a well-oiled PR machine that fails to put its rhetoric into practice. The policies and processes I naively trusted failed me. Having now lost my health and my job, I wonder whether 'blaming myself' might not have been the better option!

  • Posted by: sick because of it on March 14, 2008 10:11 AM

My wife and I had a similar situation where we had a neighbour bullying my wife, we put up a web cam outside our house, and when we went to the management office to sort out the problem with her, we took my mp3 player, hid it in my pocket and simply used the record function on it. It recorder all of her tantrums, and we have ample evidence if she ever wants to try to attack us through the courts. You guys could do similar thing at work. Keep a small Mp3 player in your pocket for those 'Lovely intimate moments!'

  • Posted by: Andrew on March 14, 2008 10:55 AM

I don't quite advocate a tape recorder... I once knew a woman from another office who actually stole the office's tape recorder, taped a few conversations and then was caught. She wasn't being bullied (she was the slacker bully) and the conversations she taped shouldn't have been because they simply had nothing to do with her or any other bad behaviour. Yet when she was caught what happened? She still kept her job and is now "office manager" for sales! Even though she's a smoko slacker bogan who has very basic skills, constantly leaving early for her kids, was caught stealing and taping irrelevant conversations, she got PROMOTED! Terrible. Shows what you can do if you've been at a company 20 years.

  • Posted by: lainey on March 14, 2008 12:06 PM

I agree with posters here - having a policy is one thing, enforcing it is quite another. With all due respect to HR people, I haven't seen many good ones. It seems to be a job where no training, little expertise, and basic payroll systems knowledge is sufficient. However they generally only do what management directs or tolerates. So if the organisational culture is such that bad behaviour is tolerated (or encouraged), and HR is a weak part of the organisation, nothing will be done. Most organisations find difficult people just too hard to deal with, so they move them, promote them, or ignore them. It's much easier to isolate, ignore and push out the victim. Sad but true.

I think the problem is much broader than bullying, which I realise is (appropriately) defined quite broadly. The workplace is, like any other part of life, full of people with a range of personalities and maladaptive behaviours, not to mention a range of abilities. Often the smart people aren't at the top, or if they are, they don't know (and don't care to learn) how to manage people and run an organisation. So the dysfunction starts at the top and works its way down. I've seen countless poor performers and nasty types promoted, and certainly not dealt with for the impact their behaviour has on others.

I currently sit next to a psycho I like to call the Warden. We are on the same level, but this person seems to think they have the right to scrutinise me (eg constantly keep an eye on what's on my screen), talk about me and my work to their junior staff, and goodness knows what this person's been saying to the person we both report to. The person takes pleasure in undermining people, and is so inconsistent from one day to the next, I wonder if there's a diagnosable disorder. I was at the place a year before I realised the person's treachery, so the damage is probably done. What's worse is that my boss isn't a good judge of character and seems to trust this person.

My approach is to accept the situation and look for another job. I've done it before with crappy bosses, but this is the first time a co-worker has had this effect. It might take a bit longer this time, so am wondering if I'm going to have to learn to deal with this situation for a while longer than I want to. And to top it off, our boss wants to leave, and the Warden will probably do the job for a while. I'd like to tell this person to butt out, in no uncertain terms, but am mindful of the position they might be in soon.
The mind boggles at what the Warden would say if a prospective employer spoke to them about me, if they are in the acting role for a while. Nightmare scenario.

As for trying to beat them at their own game, one of my faves is "don't fight with the pig, you'll both get dirty and the pig enjoys it".

I sympathise with anyone who is experiencing pain at work.

  • Posted by: choctop on March 14, 2008 1:03 PM

I am currently on workcover due to bullying in the workplace. ( High School teacher)Over the past 9 months I have witnessed the head of department bully one person into having to apply to transfer to another location, (selling house and moving family) and have seen the damage that has done to him. As for me, because I would'nt "take sides" and join her gang, I am the current target. This woman has two distinct faces, one she presents to her bosses and people she considers equals and another for the rest of us. She uses one on one meetings to deliver personal attacks and to dig for gossip so she can decide who needs targeting. She never actually says anything when others are around, but tries to socially isolate you. She also talks about you to other staff when you are not there. She often just grunts at when I say goodmorning/afternoon. Another reason why I am targeted is because I questioned the way the students are assessed. I could go on and on about the way she treats me, but I would like to comment on the effect it has had on me. After coming from a really functioning, happy and productive faculty this has really had a negative inpact on me. I have for the first time been placed on anti-depressants, I wake up all through the night worrying about trying to keep one step ahead of her, my stomach is in constant knots, tears are never far away and have begun to question my ability. Last night I spoke to one of my co-workers ( who is terrified at becoming the next target,) and she was by the bully told how happy she seems lately. Alluding to her that I am the one who makes the workplace difficult.Being bullied has had a really negative impact on me that will take a long time to recover from.

  • Posted by: Anon on March 14, 2008 2:24 PM

The best managers I have worked for, with few exceptions, were returned service personnel.
HR Practitioners are preoccupied with defending the "management position". Speaking up for staff is terminal in a career sense. The modern manager, and regrettably those who appear to succeed, have mastered the art of managing upwards, but not a great deal else.

  • Posted by: Lionel Parrott on March 14, 2008 3:54 PM

Shocking and saddening stories.
A couple of observations:
1. It's easy to blame HR. They are toothles tigers. But if they are so weak, then what is the General Manager doing ? Huh ??
2. There are good HR people out there who have balls to investigate and sack people. Yes, there are some good HR people. They are usually at good companies with good courageous GM's. Bad company = bad managers and bad HR. Duh.
3. All this chat about "HR asked me for the evidence and then nothing was done". Harden up princess ! Don't you know the law ? You can't sack someone on the basis of a verbal complaint or allegation ! One person's word against another's without any witnesses or evidence goes nowhere !! C'mon.
I've seen HR act swiftly once a complaint is made, investigate impartially and fully, adn then recommend appropriate disciplinary action to the GM. The GM makes the final decision. If nothing was done, don't blame HR all the time - think about who they report to.

  • Posted by: Posted by: on March 14, 2008 4:03 PM

The results of that study (remember what was being discussed before we started mouthing off about HR, psychologists and women managers being the devils incarnate) come as no real surprise.

A person may be sexually harassed in the form of one-off inappropriate attention deemed offensive and providing complainants are heard, their reactions validated and the offensive behaviour ceases, many are OK.

Bullying by definition is repeated unreasonable behaviour that
makes someone feel UNSAFE. It can be quite abusive, ongoing and really do someone’s head in, and the trauma experienced by the person bullied may well be cumulative and the person eventually "falls over".

However we should never trivialise or underestimate the impact of sexual harassment on confidence, self-esteem and workplace performance.

As for me, I am a psychologist, consider myself to be a member of the HR fraternity, and a woman, and I’m usually in there trying to rout out the bullies but perhaps I'm a freak one-off exception to the rule!

  • Posted by: Leanne Faraday-Brash on March 16, 2008 9:54 PM

I too have felt the brunt of bullying. It was deep set, systematic, and was a cultural stance which sought to crucify anyone outside the bounds of the tight faction of bullies within the department. At a large University, where coffee breaks were in excess of the 2 hour mark on a daily basis, and students were treated with aggression and incompetence.
The worst of it was that the university hierarchy did nothing. the Access and Equity people were kind and supportive, the Legal Dept was totally on my side - but they were powerless. I left, to my own detriment and to my great sadness. Incompetence, arrogance and ignorance are alive and well in a Northern suburbs University I know.

  • Posted by: Undone on March 17, 2008 12:30 AM

Reading the feedback is typical of victims of workplace bullying. Interesting, there are more comments from those who have been bullied than those who were sexually harassed. According to the research and in my experience, general workplace bullying injures employees more than sexual harassment alone.Besides, I know that all bullies are incompetent, I don't know not about harassers.

  • Posted by: Evelyn Field on March 17, 2008 6:53 AM

I worked for NSW Health and they have statements supporting zero tolerance of bullying and harassment in the workplace, unfortunately they do not seem to know how to actually make their workers take notice of it (I worked for a separate business unit outside Sydney). I was bullied for over a year, it gradually becoming more violently slanted until I was physically and verbally attacked. Management knew of this potential for internal violence to escalate from low level to high risk, as I had finally placed a complaint six months after it started. They sent the bully on anger management knowing him to be of violent nature but his behaviour worsened and eventually led to my attack. I left work and after placing a grievance which similarly was mishandled, I was undergoing counselling and on medication for severe stress and depression. I have been finally forced to leave and have fled the state. I filed a complaint in October 2006, was attacked in June 2007 (so it was forseeable internal violence with knowledge of the CEO as I had initially sent anonymous notes begging for his intervention) was displaced until being forced to leave NSW Health in February 2008 and still I have not received the outcome of an investigation that was carried out only after contacting directly the Director General of NSW Health in the latter part of 2007. It is all well and good organisations having policies and stating they are against workplace bullying etc but the hard part is not allowing it to happen and to act immediately when it does. And another thing, Workcover were forced into an investigation and I was interviewed but my agressor had his statement submitted by the management who supported his violent behaviour and Workcover said that I suffered no long term trauma and was out of danger now that I was not at the workplace. I wonder where the hell they thought I was going to go in the end. I formally complained about their handling of the situation too, to no avail. I note they themselves have had press about their internal workplace violence being allowed to be present and continue. Will organisations now go the next step to actually stopping workplace violence and acting on it when it does happen. It is easy to draw up statements and policies but harder to act on them obviously. The action needs to be in the action.

  • Posted by: Gill Williamson on March 19, 2008 4:18 PM

Further to my blog on March 19 2008, the results of the investigation carried out by NSW Health with an investigator paid by them have been issued. It is found that I was not harassed or bullied although there was inappropriate behaviour. If someone can suffer as much as I have and it be 'inappropriate behaviour' then the terminology for bullying and harassment need to be changed. Organisations must realise that this 'inappropriate behaviour' is costing them money and needs attention and change. Time will eventually see change for the better but oh, how long it takes to change human behaviour. That is it for me then. Management will feel able to carry on as usual, staff turnover will remain high, sick leave will remain high, safety and quality of care will continue to be compromised but as it is not bullying and harassment affecting staff, only inappropriate behaviour, nobody need do anything!

  • Posted by: Gill Williamson on March 20, 2008 10:39 AM

I am bullied and sexually harrassed for nearly two years. Untill I cannot take it anymore. I started having panic attacks and depression.
I have complained numerous time without results until. I made a complaints to dept of health and up to now it is not resolve yet. The harrassment I suffered was witnessed by other nurses, Doctors, and patients. Sometime male patients are being used to try to bully specially if they seems to be willing to get along. Some are just told of their malicious rumours they circulating about me. I will just visitors and patients laughing the derogatory words they used about me is so painful. I cannot funtion normally now. Unable to get a new job as they are my last employer I cannot get referees.

  • Posted by: Help on May 30, 2008 12:56 PM

07 March 2008

Are you being Bullied at work? How to tell ...

Being inflicted with bullying at work can cause you great distress, and is a waste of your valuable time and impacts on you personally and professionally. Your employer should care also as bullying effects the companies bottom-line, with impact to work performance, productivity and absenteeism.

Nasty peers and friends whom you thought friends! can really ruin your day and career if you don't see it coming, and it is too late to do anything about it without major effect on you and your health.

Isolating, silencing, ridicule, intimidation, sidelining, putting you down in front of peers ... the list of bullying tactics are endless. Sometimes the victim does not even know it is happening to them, until a nasty pattern forms, some refuse to accept it is happening and block it out, but this aids the bully to continue.

How to identify the behaviour :: How to stop it !
The following is an excerpt from
"Bullies in our midst," from the October 2007 issue of Canadian Living Magazine.

Kelly is an impressive woman: charming, tall, confident and a pleasure to be around. Her track record as a stellar and well-liked employee is impeccable. Kelly, 51, was promoted regularly throughout her career, and people value her opinion; former coworkers keep in touch and often turn to her for advice.

Three years ago, after successfully battling a serious illness, Kelly left a demanding position in the private sector in search of fewer deadlines and earlier nights. She accepted a management position at a government department, working indirectly with youth, because it appealed to her ethics. “The organization had a cause. I liked that,” she says.

Tension at the office
But almost immediately Kelly noticed something amiss. Employees rarely chatted, tension was in the air, and her staff soon began complaining to her about unrealistic deadlines or being shot down whenever they expressed ideas or concerns to management. Many were afraid they were going to lose their jobs because the feedback from the head boss – nicknamed Dragon Lady – was always negative. “They were being told things like, ‘Your work is falling behind; you must be lazy,’” says Kelly.

Then one morning the boss sauntered through Kelly’s department and complained that some of her staff weren’t there by 8:30. “Your productivity levels must be very low,” she declared. Kelly stuck up for her employees and explained that she had given them permission to come in at 9:30 or later when they had worked late the night before. Dragon Lady didn’t argue, so Kelly thought it was the end of that. She was wrong.

“All of a sudden my work schedule became a big problem,” says Kelly, who had negotiated flexible work hours when she was hired to avoid rush-hour traffic. Her boss started demanding that she arrive by 8:30. “It was brought up every week in meetings: Why was I not there earlier?”

Months of pressure

After months of pressure from her boss, Kelly dug out her notes from her meeting with HR and sent a letter to both HR and her superior outlining what had been arranged. Nothing more was said on this topic, but Kelly was ordered to numerous early morning meetings that were irrelevant to her. She ended up staying later, sometimes until midnight, to complete her work and was shut down whenever she offered options. “I felt absolutely humiliated,” she says. “I was being treated like a little child. There were days I cried all the way home.”

One day Kelly lamented her current work situation to a former boss over lunch. He looked at Kelly and told her, “You are being bullied.”

“It was one of those a-ha moments,” says Kelly. “I was able to step out of my workplace environment and look at what was going on as an observer.” Kelly could see the intimidation, fear tactics, shaming and silencing – the bullying.

Source: www.canadianliving.com Story by Susan McClelland

01 March 2008

When the Wrong Woman Wins - Women are bullies too

When the Wrong Woman Wins - Building Bullies and Perpetuating Patriarch

Penelope W. Brunner, Ed.D.Melinda L. Costello, Ph.D.
Through bully methods, women supervisors and managers may provide organizations with the underhanded behaviors that keep competent women from being noticed and promoted.
Some women are not good managers; and that is exactly why some companies keep them. For 30 years, researchers and working women have watched the progression of females into America's corporate management positions, and in their examination of the glass ceiling phenomenon, Corsun and Costen (2001) report that 40% of US executives, managers, and administrators are now women. During the early years of the women's movement, it was hypothesized that as the number of women entering the working public increased, a feminization or softening of business organizations would also occur. Publications such as Helgesen's (1990) The Female Advantage, Helgesen's (1995) The Web of Inclusion, and Rosener's (1990) "Ways Women Lead" led us to believe that kinder, gentler, and nurturing environments fostered by humane, caring, and intuitive leaders were developing. Multiculturalism and diversity were the expected outcomes.
The facts reported today do not support this earlier view. Most women managers remain at the lower to mid-level ranks of management, and the workplace is more violent, competitive, and aggressive than before (Corsun & Costen, 2001). Popular media such as Time (Labi, 2001), Management Today (Kennett, 2001), and Psychology Today (Bertucco, 2001) have all featured stories concerning bully pervasiveness, and as many as 21% of workers may have been targeted directly by office bullies (Keashly & Jagatic, 2000; Namie & Namie, 2000). In situations involving bullying, 81% of the bully behavior is attributed to employees in a supervisory role (Namie & Namie, 2000).
One expectation is that much of the bullying is perpetrated by males, perhaps threatened by the increased number of women in the management ranks. Sadly, however, this is not the case. According to Namie's U.S. Hostile Workplace Survey (2000), men and women are equally responsible for the bullying behavior, and 84% of those employees targeted for the abuse are female. Surprisingly, women bullies target women employees more often than they target males (Namie, 2000; Namie & Namie, 2000).
In other words, despite the increasing number of women in America's workforce, the corporate environment has become even more hostile, especially to women. Instead of laying the groundwork for the advancement of the sisterhood, women have joined men in the harassment of their own gender. This in no way suggests that women should be denied admittance to the hallowed halls of corporate work; it does, however, encourage examination of the phenomena contributing to this unexpected outcome. What type of system fosters or maintains a bully's growth? Why do women bullies target women? Are women bullies helping to perpetuate the existing workplace patriarchy? This paper explores the dynamics that promote the development of women as bullies and that encourage women, perhaps unconsciously, to support a system that keeps them subordinate.
The Bully Model
In her book Why So Slow?, Valian (1999) contends that the glass ceiling continues to be held up, in part, by gender schemas: those stereotypes and biases learned in childhood and that perpetuate into adulthood and consequently into the workplace. The gender schema for men includes "being capable of independent, autonomous action.assertive, instrumental, and task-oriented" (Valian, 1999, p. 13). For women, the schema is different and includes "being nurturant, expressive, communal, and concerned about others" (Valian, 1999, p. 13). While everyone, regardless of gender, has and expresses all of the behavioral traits to a certain degree, men present to the world more of the masculine traits and women present more of the feminine (Matusak, 2001; Valian, 1998). The norms of organizations are defined in masculine terms, and "feminine attributes are valued only in the most marginal sense" (Ely & Meyerson, 2000, p. 109). The criteria for success that organizations have established are based on the stereotypical male characteristics such as aggressiveness, competitiveness, and autonomy (Bailyn, 1993). Over time, these leadership traits are taken for granted and become legitimized, though often invisible, guides for future leader evaluation. Employees who want to advance up the corporate ladder may feel they must demonstrate that they carry the male leadership traits and that they are willing to use them. Instead of embracing the feminine characteristics that could balance the historical male hierarchical model, corporations may force women to assume the characteristics of the dominant culture or may base promotions on the masculine traits that women possess (Corsun & Costen, 2001; Ely & Meyerson, 2000; Valian, 1998).
Bully behavior is the amplified acting out of masculine behaviors that range from blatant demonstrations such as aggressively screaming, yelling, and threatening dismissals to subtle, underhanded displays. Making unreasonable job demands, criticizing abilities, and excluding targeted employees from meetings and necessary information are all found in the bully's repertoire (Namie & Namie, 2000). Research on bully behavior and harassment concludes that bullies, like harassers, are driven by a need for power and control and choose to seek out a perceived weaker employee to dominate (Namie & Namie, 2000; Kurth, Spiller, & Travis, 2000).
The corporate world in which workplace bullies thrive is established according to the white male experience and represents an extension of the military and sports models followed by men for generations (Corsun & Costen, 2001; Harragan, 1977; Hornstein, 1996). "Organizational power hierarchies, competitive work climates, and the bunker mentality of contemporary corporate life all provide a hospitable environment for the toxin of disrespect, and even induce it, from bosses who would otherwise be just" (Hornstein, 1996, p.6). According to Corsun and Costen (2001), competitiveness and the desire to dominate are understandable consequences of the existing corporate system:
The corporate office is the habitat of the powerful. Corporate America is the kind of place that is natural for white males. The game of business has a unique military-sports theme, the rules of which were established years ago by White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant male 'captains of industry.' The military influence is evident in organizational form and structure, whereas the organization's function (to win the game or make a profit) is influenced by team sports. (p. 4)

The bully's goals parallel those found both in military battles and in sports arenas; competition is the ultimate game in the bully's mind, and winning requires a singular focus. In order to win, bullies believe that their targets must be beaten up and eliminated (Namie & Namie, 2000). New leaders stepping into this existing military/sports model must seek and destroy the weakest opponents in order to prove their worthiness to the powers that be. Many managers who use these bullying techniques are viewed as effective and are rewarded for their take-no-prisoners style of tough leadership (Russell, 2001). Divide and conquer is the mode of operation that allows the bullies to maintain control over their employees. Any show of collegiality among ranks is perceived as threatening and quickly dispersed to forbid the development of strength in opposition (Cox, 1993).As the numbers illustrate, women unfortunately are enlisting, or are being drafted, into the bully battalion at a rate similar to that of their male counterparts. And, more frequently than men, the opponents women challenge are other women (Namie & Namie, 2000). This becomes a more painful and confusing dynamic because the existing gender schemas indicate that women should be nurturing caregivers-especially toward the females who are already disadvantaged in the eyes of corporate observers. This is also a damaging dynamic, because women who oppress other women help to maintain the existing social order in which men remain dominant and women are subordinate (Acker, 1990; Brunner & Costello, 2002).The Bully's Role in Perpetuating TyrannyIf there is a perceived lack of rewards for females throughout the corporate structure, the competition for power among women may be intensified. Because feminine traits, skills, qualifications, and accomplishments are undervalued in a masculine system, certain women may feel a greater need to demean other women in order to protect the little power base they have already achieved (Ely & Meyerson, 2000). With lower rank and limited financial resources, the most vulnerable member of the corporation is typically the subordinate female, and she provides the bully with the easiest prey in the competition. Thus, female bullies help limit the number of women able to challenge the existing hierarchy.Through bully methods, women supervisors and managers may provide organizations with the underhanded behaviors that keep competent women from being noticed and promoted. When male executives allow female bullies to demonstrate these bad behaviors toward other women, the men remove themselves from the risk of legal and ethical concerns. Thus, female bullies protect and preserve the male-dominated, existing structure while men are able to keep their hands clean. The bully behavior is tolerated because "organizations of all kinds keep a comfortable place for bosses who will do their dirty work" (Hornstein, 1996, p. 103). Workers who publicly question "why can't women get along?" may not realize the part that the system plays in these power dynamics. The woman promoted to the highest levels in the organization may not need to possess great credentials or management skills. In fact, her sole strength may be her ability to puppet upper management's traditional agenda. So in addition to keeping other, more competent women from advancing, the female bully also serves as a poor representative and role model for workingwomen in general.Lewis Maltby, President of the National Work Rights Institute, states, "Bullying is the sexual harassment of 20 years ago; everybody knows about it, but nobody wants to admit it" (Russell, 2001, p. 4). However, when a mean woman discriminates, harasses, and mistreats other women and no man is deemed responsible, it is difficult for the victim to find protection or legal recourse. In 1980, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) developed guidelines for identifying and dealing with a hostile work environment, but the interpretation is based on sexual discrimination and harassment, and bullying has yet to be defined in concrete legal terms. This means that the bully's victim, unlike the victim of sexual harassment, has no clear-cut path of protection to follow. And without consistent legal avenues readily available, the bully's victim cannotexpect an alteration of organizational behavior and may believe that changing jobs is her only option. According to the US Hostile Workplace Survey (Namie, 2000), 82% of bullied employees lost their jobs, and 38% left voluntarily. The target that chooses to stay in the organization may experience a drop in productivity, effectiveness, and opportunities for advancement. The Canada Safety Council (Institute of Management and Administration [IOMA], 2001) estimates that up to 52% of a target's day is devoted to counter-bully tactics such as building a defensive network, developing counteractive strategies, or seeking political allies. So, in reality, the bully has won, and the organizational structure remains intact. Within this type of corporate atmosphere, other employees, wondering if they are the next target, understand that challenging the status quo may involve significant risk. In fact, employees often rally to support the bully out of fear of reprisals, thus weakening the prospects of other women forming support coalitions (Namie, 2000). Research shows majority group members are threatened by minorities who might join together for support (Cox, 1993); so the female bully once again, albeit inadvertently, helps to maintain a structure that limits the opportunities for all women,including the bully. Even though she may feel she has joined the "good old boys' club", the club ultimately may not provide the female bully with the same upper-level positions afforded to its other members. Publicly, male leaders may compliment female bullies for demonstrating that "she kicks ass with the best of them" or "she's hard as nails," (Martin, 1996, p. 191); and in only 7% of the reported cases was the bully punished, transferred or terminated (Namie, 2000). But as Ely and Meyerson (2000) point out, aggressive, task-oriented women may also be criticized privately. While this criticism may remain secret because the organizational hierarchy does not want to appear discriminatory to women, it nevertheless may limit the bully's advancement thereby blocking the route for other women.


Bully behavior, whether perpetrated by men or women, should be examined further because of the long-term costs allocated to both employees and the organizations in which they work. Health problems, legal problems, and productivity problems tied to bully behavior all represent expenses that could be avoided (Flynn, 1999; Hornstein, 1996; Namie, 2000). Turnover expense also should be examined-- and not just as it relates to replacing targets. Women who do not buy into a masculine style of leadership may find themselves in a position where they feel forced either to conform to bully behavior or to take their talents elsewhere; and starting over slows their progress. "To the extent that employees find it difficult to conform to the image of the successful employee, or find it difficult to bring all of their relevant skills and insights to their jobs, important human resources are lost" (Ely & Meyerson, 2000, p. 128). Like other researchers, we agree that corporate management needs to acknowledge that bullying is a major employment issue and requires education, training, and a zero tolerance policy. More importantly, bullied employees need to feel there is a place to be heard and that interventions are possible. Existing laws concerning hostile work environment, defamation of character, and vicarious liability may need to be altered or expanded to include bullying behavior as a punishable offense (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC], 1999; Namie & Namie, 2000).Real change, however, is possible only when management is willing to examine the model that rewards just a fraction of the behavioral traits that all employees possess. Until organizations recognize and reward "wholeness" of employees, the feminine and masculine traits we all embody, symptoms of a fragmented workplace will continue to rear their ugly heads. Sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, and bullying fall on the same continuum and serve to maintain the existing corporate structure. While there is no shortage of change models available, what does seem to be missing on the part of executive management is willingness or desire to change. Women, even more than men, should not accept that the established model is infallible and certainly should not contribute to its continuing devaluation of feminine characteristics. When the wrong woman wins, all employees lose. For thirty years we have wanted to believe that any woman manager would be a welcome change in any organization. We also have wanted to believe that as a woman climbed the corporate ladder she would extend her hand to other women following the leadership path. Recognizing that women are more likely than men to bully other women is hard to accept and even harder to discuss in a public forum. But the statistics should not be ignored. If half of the bullies in the workplace are women, then women managers need to assume responsibility for analyzing their roles and contributions to this organizational dynamic. Even one bully is too many.

Source - Reproduced from www.worktrauma.org