Workplace bullying, such as belittling comments, persistent criticism of work and withholding resources, appears to inflict more harm on employees than sexual harassment, say researchers at the “Seventh International Conference on Work, Stress and Health.”
“As sexual harassment becomes less acceptable in society, organizations may be more attuned to helping victims, who may therefore find it easier to cope,” said lead author M. Sandy Hershcovis, PhD, of the University of Manitoba. “In contrast, non-violent forms of workplace aggression such as incivility and bullying are not illegal, leaving victims to fend for themselves.”
Both bullying and sexual harassment can create negative work environments and unhealthy consequences for employees, but the researchers found that workplace aggression has more severe consequences. Employees who experienced bullying, incivility or interpersonal conflict (86 of 128 participants) 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 (46 of 128 participants). Furthermore, 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,” said Hershcovis. “The insidious nature of these behaviors makes them difficult to deal with and sanction.”