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Workplace woes: Bullying worse than sexual harassment
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March 10, 2008
A new study has revealed that workplace bullying is more harmful than sexual harassment for employees.


The study, led by M Sandy Hershcovis, PhD, of the University of Manitoba, found that bullying at workplace, such as mocking, constant criticism of work and withholding resources appears to inflict more harm on employees than sexual harassment.


For the study, Hershcovis and co-author Julian Barling, PhD, of Queen's University in Ontario, Canada [Images], reviewed 110 studies conducted over 21 years that compared the outcomes of employees' experience of sexual harassment and workplace aggression.


The researchers specifically 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. They also compared job turnover and emotional ties to the job.


In the study, the authors distinguished among different forms of workplace aggression like incivility, bullying and interpersonal conflict.


Although both bullying and sexual harassment can cause negative work environments for employees, the researchers found that workplace aggression has more severe consequences.


They found that 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.


Also, it was found that bullied employees experienced more job stress, less job commitment and higher levels of anger and anxiety.


The researchers did not find any difference between employees experiencing either type of mistreatment on how satisfied they were with their co-workers or with their work.


During the study, researchers used a total of 128 samples, in which 46 subjects experienced sexual harassment, 86 experienced workplace aggression and six experienced both.


Sample sizes ranged from 1,491 to 53,470 people and participants ranged from 18 to 65 years old.


The work aggression samples included both men and women.


Hershcovis said that the sexual harassment samples examined primarily women because past research has shown that men interpret and respond differently to the behaviors that women perceive as sexual harassment.


The study was presented at the Seventh International Conference on Work, Stress and Health.

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