Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Connection Between Workplace Bullying, Health and Home Life

A new study measures how bullies affect families.

The study involved 280 full-time employees and their spouses. Participants were asked how often supervisors behaved badly. In particular, the survey rated responses to statements such as "Puts me down in front of others," and "Tells me I'm incompetent."

Participants also rated statements about their home lives. Examples of the statements measured included, "Our family can express feelings to each other," and "Our family is able to make decisions about how to solve problems." Spouses were asked how often they were "Irritated or resentful about things your (husband/wife/partner) did or didn't do," or "Felt tense from fighting arguing or disagreeing with your (husband/wife/partner)."

Results show that while employees with bad bosses did not report problems with their families, their spouses often did. Employees who had bad bosses experienced more blow-ups between husbands and wives and had families that failed to communicate well. Dawn Carlson, the study's lead author and a professor of management and the H.R. Gibson Chair of Organizational Development at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University, explains the fallout of abusive behavior at work. According to Carlson, "It spills over and affects our families . . . . It translates into tensions with your spouse. And that leads to poor family functioning." Linda Carroll, "Your boss may be ruining your marriage," (Dec. 12, 2011).

Commentary and Checklist

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recognizes job stress as an area of growing concern in occupational safety and health. Job stress can trigger various stress-related disorders including depression, anxiety, dissatisfaction, fatigue, tension, aggression, lack of concentration and memory problems.

In addition, according to the new study described above, the stress of workplace bullying can take a toll on marriages and family life.

Employers wishing to curtail bullying must create an atmosphere where bullying is not accepted and provide a means for employees to report bullying without fear of retaliation for doing so. In the employment relationship, managers and supervisors are the persons in power and are the most likely to bully employees.

However, just because a manager is strict or demanding does not necessarily mean that he or she is a bully. High but reasonable expectations, when communicated respectfully and fairly, do not equate to bullying. Workplace bullying involves abuse or misuse of power. It creates feelings of defenselessness and injustice and undermines morale, productivity and health.

Here is what you can do as a manager to stop bullying:
  • Never abuse your power. If you bully your employees, you injure yourself, your employees and your employer.
  • Watch for bullying. Verbal mistreatment of employees in front of other employees or customers is a common form of bullying.
  • Look for the signs of bullying. A common sign of bullying is a higher turnover rate of employees reporting to one manager than for those reporting to other managers.
  • If your position at your employer permits you to do so, confront bullies under your management. Specifically address what actions you believe were an abuse of power and why.
  • If you are not in a position to address bullying on your own or you feel uncomfortable doing so, you should make your human resource department aware of bullying as soon as possible.
This informational piece was published on January 11, 2012.

1 comment:

Ann said...

Thank you for this article. I agree that to "never abuse your power. If you bully your employees, you injure yourself, your employees and your employer" Presence of bullying at the workplace is never healthy and shouldn't be just ignored and the company should act on it if ever it happens. Check Jerry Ackerman, he also shares insights about bullying!