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The Playground Never Ends
Transcript of The Playground Never Ends
A Case Study on Workplace Bullying
Overview of Presentation
Review/Analysis of article
Real-world examples of response to bullying
25 - 90% of employees report bullying, 1 in 10 say it is ongoing.
There are many definitions
of bullying in the workplace.
is extended over time
Anti-bullying rules can be difficult to write and ambiguous.
Is intent required? Is there a difference between bullying and "boorish behavior?" Must the target be singled out?
Unlike sexual harassment, there is no legal definition of bullying, hence there is a "denotative hesitancy." Resisting bullying is difficult for the target and enforcement is problematic for HR personnel.
Adverse effects of bullying include:
Poor job performance
Typically coincides with major organizational changes
Initially targets notice a pattern of communication that makes them feel intimidated, insulted or excluded
Victim feels self doubt, fear and self-blaming. Co-workers often contribute to these feelings
Overt stage: target and co-workers begin to believe the bully's attacks on the target
when co-workers join in on the abuse
Resistance is often complex, creative and resourceful
Target is most likely to overcome bullying with "collective"
Leave the organization and encourage others to leave
of the bullying
Human Resources Responses to Bullying
The response is often limited by the function of HR, which is oriented to "business competitiveness" rather than "employee comfort"
What can HR do?
Intervention may lead to an intensification of the bullying, or bullying of the HR professional (bullies tend to have a lot of organizational power)
Upper management may support the bullying culture!
HR Professionals often do not have the tools to make the bullying stop
Individual resistance can be successful. Sanctions for the bully occur in about 25% of reported cases. However, 20% of reports result in the termination of the target. Collective resistance is the most effective at 75% success
HR must determine if the actions constitute bullying. Some employees are overly sensitive or cry wolf. Bullies may have poor communication skills or an aggressive leadership style.
Counseling is often ineffective, bullies typically deny the claim
Do only the minimum
required and no more
What do victims do?
counseling is often ineffective, bullies typically deny the claim
How can the various parties involved in the suspected bullying differentiate instances of boorish behavior from actual bullying?
What kind of organizational structures and taken-for-granted assumptions enable or encourage bullying? What structures and assumptions limit and constrain it?
Should organizations have formal, written anti-bullying policies? If so, what should they say? Who should implement those policies? Should governments have anti-bullying legislation akin to sexual or racial harassment laws? Why or why not?
How do workplaces use accountability to control bullying?
"Persistent verbal and non-verbal aggression at work that includes personal attacks, social
ostracism, and a multitude of other painful messages and hostile interactions, including insulting remarks, verbal threats, humiliation, and interference with one's work." (Conrad & Poole, 2012, p. 263)
"Bullying is regular and persistent psychological harassment involving criticism and humiliation.
At its minimum, bullying undermines the confidence of the target, leading to lower productivity. At worse, bullying causes depression and an inability to do the job." (Gardner, S. & Johnson, P.R., 2001 p. 24)
Authority = "layers of responsibility embodied in the organizational chart"
Rules = "codes of conduct, evaluation procedures, criteria for raises, and promotion criteria"
(Fredericksen & McCorkle, 2013, p. 229)
Relies on the "organizational culture that creates the day-to-day reality of the organization maintained by the interpersonal relationships among employees, such as who really influences whom, the norms in a unit, disciplinary behavior, or functional leadership at all levels of the organization. Personal styles and habits that individuals bring to the organization may dominate if a strong organization-based social/professional culture is lacking."
(Fredericksen & McCorkle, 2013, pp. 229-230)
Relational and Cultural
Government of Alberta - Alberta Learning Information Service
International Association of Workplace Bullying & Harassment
Workplace Bullying Institution
Workplaces Against Violence in Employment (W.A.V.E)
rude, foul and abusive language
repeatedly threatening dismissal
assigning meaningless tasks
humiliating and demanding conduct in front of other workers
confusing and contradictory instructions or constantly changing instructions
undermining work performance
isolating and excluding persons from various work activities
Common behaviors of bullies:
leaving offensive messages on email
blocking an employee's promotion
overloading of work
withholding of information
hiding documents or equipment
setting impossible deadlines
excluding workers on a regular pattern
threatening action that could result in loss
(Vega, G. & Comer, D.R., 2005 p. 104)
For more information:
Conrad, C. & Poole, M.S. (2012). Strategic Organizational Communication in a Global Economy. New York: Harcourt College Publishers.
Fredericksen, E.D. & McCorkle, S. (2013). Explaining organizational responses to workplace aggression. Public Personnel Management, 42(2) DOI 10.1177/0091026013487050
Gardner, S. & Johnson, P.R. (2001). The leaner, meaner workplace: Strategies for handling bullies at work. Employment Relations Today, 28(2) DOI: 10.1002/ert.1012
Vega, G. & Comer, D.R. (2005). Sticks and Stones my Break Your Bones: but Words can Break Your Spirit: Bullying in the Workplace. Journal of Business Ethics, Vol 58. DOI 10.1007/s10551-005-1422-7
Dynamic Management Cartoon, http://www.sangrea.net
Workplace Bullying, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAgg32weT80
Conrad, C. & Poole, M.S. (2012)