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David Baxter

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Meet the Work Bully
New York Times Blog
March 11, 2008

The playground bully has grown up and gotten a job.

Workplace bullying, which can include everything from belittling comments to excluding someone from an important meeting, may be tougher on employees than sexual harassment, according to new research.

The findings, presented this week at the Seventh International Conference on Work, Stress and Health, highlight the difficult problem of workplace aggression. Most workplaces are sensitive to complaints of sexual harassment, and employees with complaints about harassment have avenues to seek help. Workplace aggression, however, isn?t illegal and victims often must fend for themselves, said lead author M. Sandy Hershcovis of the University of Manitoba.

Dr. Hershcovis and coauthor Julian Barling of Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, reviewed 110 studies conducted over 21 years that compared employee experiences with both sexual harassment and workplace aggression. The study looked at worker stress and anxiety, job turnover and worker satisfaction, among other things.

The authors identified different forms of workplace aggression. Incivility could include simple rudeness, either in words or action. Interpersonal conflicts involved problems that led to arguments with another coworker. Bullying involved persistent criticism, yelling, spreading gossip, insults and ignoring or excluding workers from office activities.

The researchers found that workplace aggression had severe consequences on employee well-being. Compared to employees who had been sexually harassed, bullied workers were more likely to quit their jobs, be less happy with their work and have less satisfying relations with their bosses. Bullied employees also were more likely to report job stress and be less committed to their jobs.

The problem with work bullying is that it is insidious and difficult to complain about, note the authors. For instance, if one employee consistently ignores the requests of another worker, it can make it difficult to do the job. But employees often are reluctant to raise such an issue with their bosses, because saying ?He?s ignoring me,'? makes the victim sound petty.
 

ladylore

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I have both experienced this and witnessed this in a couple of jobs I had. The last one was because I didn't want to join the others socially after work. If a manager didn't like someone that employees work life would become hell.

Its too bad that they don't grow out of being a bully.
 

Halo

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I have experienced it as well as seen it all too often. I honestly think that workplace bullying happens a lot more than people realize.
 

braveheart

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The first school I taught at, for 4 years, the head teacher was a bully. Two other teachers before me had nervous breakdowns due to her treatment of us. I did too, but it was not far below the surface anyway, but her bullying added to it and I crashed. Unsurprisingly, as I'd been bullied much of my life before that.
 
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i am glad this kind of thing is gaining attention. i had some brief run-ins with a specific person at work and i can say i was extremely angry but also unsure of what to do about it. this person still angers me when i think about what happened. however that was at a different job which thank goodness i no longer am at. i am hoping that some sort of legislation will be passed that addresses this kind of behaviour.
 

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