Workplace Bullying Julaine E. Field, Ph.D., LPC, NCC Associate Professor

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Workplace Bullying Julaine E. Field, Ph.D., LPC, NCC Associate Professor Counseling and Human Services University of Colorado at Colorado

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Workplace Bullying Julaine E. Field, Ph.D., LPC, NCC Associate Professor Counseling and Human Services University of Colorado at Colorado. What is Workplace Bullying? (April, 2008) - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Workplace Bullying

Julaine E. Field, Ph.D., LPC, NCCAssociate ProfessorCounseling and Human ServicesUniversity of Colorado at Colorado

What is Workplace Bullying? (April, 2008)

Workplace bullying refers to repeated, unreasonable actions of individuals (or a group) directed towards an employee (or a group of employees), which is intended to intimidate (usually psychologically) and creates a risk to the health and safety of the employee(s). Workplace bullying often involves an abuse or misuse of power. Bullying includes behavior that intimidates, degrades, offends, or humiliates a worker, often in front of others.

Examples of bullying: Unwarranted or invalid criticism Regular threatsBlame without factual justification Smear campaignsBeing treated differently Denied prof. dev.Being sworn at Quick to criticizeExclusion or social isolation Passed over for prom.Being shouted at or being humiliated Being the target of practical jokes Excessive monitoring

How Common is Workplace Bullying?

Australia (2006) n= 14,000, 1 in 5 harassed by managers or colleagues 40% stating that they witnessed abuse

United Kingdom (2005) n = 3,000, 1 in 4, increase from (2000) study (1 in 6)

United States (2001) 1 in 3 to 9 of 10 (Glendinning, 2001)

-United States (2002)Women reported being bullied more often by coworkers while men reported being by supervisors and coworkers

United States (2006)58% of bullies are women and they most often victimize other women, choosing women as targets nearly 90% of the time. (Workplace Bullying Institute)

Workplace BullyingWhy Women?:It is not considered bullying when men do itThe behavior stands out more because it does not conform to stereotypical feminine behaviorBehavior represents an actual or perceived fragile power base

Only studied in the last decade Seven types of bullying in the workplace:1. Direct physical bullying2. Direct verbal bullying3. Relational aggression4. Scapegoating (direct attention to and away from)5. Sexual harassment6. Increasing work pressure or work load7. Failure to credit the individual for success or setting up the individual for failure. (Harvey,, 2006)

Top 15 Most Common Forms of Workplace Aggression (Neuman & Baron, 1998)

Starting, dirty looks, or other negative eye contactFailure to return phone calls or return emailsCausing others to delay action on important mattersBelittling someones opinion or ideas to othersGiving someone the silent treatmentNegative or obscene gestures toward the targetTalking behind the targets back/spreading rumorsInterrupting others when they are speaking or workingIntentionally damning with faint praise (Sarcasm with malice)Flaunting status /acting in a condescending mannerLeaving the work area when the target entersFailing to deny false rumors about the targetVerbal/sexual harassmentFailure to defend targets plan to othersShowing up late to meetings that are run by target

What contributes to the likelihood that a person will become a target or victim of workplace bullying?

Shyness (Einarsen et al., 1994)Pre-existing symptoms of anxiety and depression (Zapf, 1999)Low social skills (Zapf, 1999)Neuroticism (Mikkelsen & Einarsen, 2002; Vartia, 1996; Zapf, 1999)Submissive and non-controversial, and they prefer to avoid conflict (Coyne, Seigne, & Randall, 2000)Sensitive and they have difficulties in coping effectively with stressful situations (Coyne, Seigne, & Randall, 2000)Conscientious, traditional and dependable (Coyne, Seigne, & Randall, 2000)The Perpetrator/Workplace Bully(Parkins, Fishbein, & Ritchey, 2006)the abrasive personalitythe authoritarian personality the petty tyrant Low perspective taking skillsHigh social dominance orientationHigh social skills/interpersonal persuasion Insufficient coping with frustration externalized, internalizedEscalated conflict at work insufficient means to resolve conflictDestructive culture or organization, Culture of competition, role conflict, lack of autonomy, job ambiguity, job insecurity, forced cooperation, lack of goal clarity, directive communication, strict power hierarchyWorkplace BullyingRationale for Bullying

Power, Influence, Protection




Social Status


Social Dominance Hierarchy

Culture of Snark

Combo. snide and remarkBelittling style of speech or writingSocial discourseSocial sport

9Relational AggressionWhat it Looks LikeBehaviors which threaten or intend to harm a persons friendship or feelings of belonging in a particular peer group.

Requiring strict alliancesSoliciting sensitive material for purposes of sharing it with others (undermine academic initiatives)Gossip/Rumors about a close friend to keep her in check (managing social status)Isolation (often sudden and abrupt it is up to the target to understand what she did wrong) Threatening to withdraw social support. (I am not sure if I can help you with this project now.)Sometimes involves others in commission of aggressionRelational AggressionWhat it Looks LikeBehaviors which threaten or intend to harm a persons friendship or feelings of belonging in a particular peer group.

Slow to respond to email and timelinesReticence to make eye contactAssigned meaningless tasksConfusing, contradictory instructionsUndermining work performanceTriangulating studentsWithholding informationHiding documents Setting impossible deadlinesSocial AggressionWhat it Looks LikeBehaviors which seek to harm a persons social status through attacking a person.

Competing with someone strategies include slander, rumors, and back stabbing

Specific target for bullying (established social norm social dominance hierarchy) claim superiority, productivity, true intellect, etc.

Gossip/Rumors about an individual to keep her in check (managing social status)

Isolation /Ostracized

Always involves others in commission of aggression

Diminishment in statusRecipe for Relational and Social Aggression at Work:

Individual Variables:Adherence to a feminine ideal for behavior(the double standard is alive and well)Ongoing use of social coping skillsDesire for popularity among peersDesire for recognition among peersAvoidance of direct conflict and resolutionJealousy and envyCompare self to others to know who I amNeed for power and controlReinforcement for previous use (dev.)

Recipe for Relational and Social Aggression at Work:

Systemic Variables:Administration who treats departments, individuals differently according to perceived status (Favoritism, Interpersonal injustice)Poor or weak leadership Face (positive social value, ingratiation) allows success (true criteria are ill-defined)Inhospitable work environment (competition for scarce resources, lack of respect, low morale, causal attribution error, little change)Does not recognize bullying, lack of reporting measures, lack of negative consequencesInstitutional and systemic bias against women

Coping strategies when being bullied at work:Assertive responsesSeeking HelpAvoidanceDoing NothingOlafsson and Johannsdottir, 2004Name the behavior Right now I am experiencing this discussion as your attempt to overpower meAct confused Wow.. Let me see if I understand this you have pulled me off of this project becauseI statements I do not want you to talk to me like this.Document every incident, evidence?Speak to your supervisor (formal or informal) Use a reporting procedure or ask for oneFind a mentor and other forms of supportSeek legal consultationWork on assertiveness skills (individual or group counseling, workshops, etc.) Psychological integrity Take care of yourselfShort-Term Help for Targets/VictimsSeek out targets, ask questions, name itMeet in private for discussionExpress concern for targetSelf-disclose own experiences if relevantExplore solutionsExplore reporting workplace bullyingDiscuss safety option

Adapted from Crothers, L., & Kolbert, J. B. (2008).