Aggression on Job More Harmful Than Sexual Harassment

Study finds bullied workers had more stress, less commitment and higher levels of anxiety

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SATURDAY, March 8, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Persistent criticism, belittling comments, bullying and other forms of workplace aggression may inflict more harm on employees than sexual harassment, according to a Canadian study.

"As sexual harassment becomes less acceptable in society, organizations may be more attuned to helping victims, who may therefore find it easier to cope. In contrast, non-violent forms of workplace aggression such as incivility and bullying are not illegal, leaving victims to fend for themselves," lead author M. Sandy Hershcovis, of the University of Manitoba, said in a prepared statement.

In their work, the researchers reviewed 110 studies conducted over 21 years. They found that both workplace aggression and sexual harassment create negative work environments and unhealthy consequences for workers, but aggression has more severe consequences.

Workers faced with bullying, incivility or interpersonal conflict were more likely to quit their jobs, have a lower level of well-being, be less satisfied with their jobs, and have less satisfying relationships with their bosses than workers who were sexually harassed, the researchers concluded.

In addition, bullied employees reported more job stress, less job commitment and higher levels of anger and anxiety.

"Bullying is often more subtle and may include behaviors that do not appear obvious to others," Hershcovis said. "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 co-worker? The insidious nature of these behaviors makes them difficult to deal with and sanction."

The study was to be presented Saturday in Washington, D.C., at the International Conference on Work, Stress and Health, co-sponsored by the American Psychological Association, the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, and the Society for Occupational Health Psychology.

More information

Mental Health America has more about workplace issues.

SOURCE: American Psychological Association, news release, March 8, 2008

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