Article 43

 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bullying At Work - The Unaddressed Problem

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Bullying at work: An unaddressed problem affecting millions in the American workplace

By Michael Santo
Huliq
January 12, 2012

A new study being published in the International Journal of Stress Management says you are not alone if you experience bullying at work. It also points out that many of the common strategies used by people to cope with bullying may be counterproductive.

When CONFRONTED by a BULLY BOSS or co-worker, individuals tend to respond by avoiding the bully, seeking support from other co-workers and trying to reassure themselves. But those strategies, though useful in the short term, tend to perpetuate the problem and make things worse in the long run. Thats because they tend to reinforce a sense of victimization.

"It is understandable that employees wish to reduce the amount of their contact with an abusive boss to the minimum, but the strategies they use actually further increase their STRESS instead of reducing it,” said study author Dana Yagil of the University of Haifa in Israel to LIVE SCIENCE. “This may happen because these strategies are associated with a sense of weakness and perpetuate the employee’s fear of the supervisor.

She found that between 13 and 14 percent of American workers endure an abusive supervisor in a survey of nearly 500 employees. Abusive supervisors were characterized as those who humiliate and insult their employees, never let them forget their mistakes, break promises and isolate employees from other co-workers.

Research suggests that workplace abuse is linked to stress - and stress is linked to a long list of MENTAL and physical ailments, including HIGHER BODY WEIGHT and heart disease. When physicians urge their patients to lose weight, exercise more and reduce the stress in their lives, their exhortations may fall on helpless ears, as many bullied employees remain stuck in situation which exacerbate these conditions.

The stress of the bullying may actually itself lead to bad decision-making or no decision-making. That’s because chronic stress may literally damage areas of the BRAIN. Studies of chronically stressed-out rats have found that certain areas of their brains actually SHRINK as a result of the stress. Stress may actually re-wire the brain, and not in good way. The stressed-out individual may be reduced to the state of the abused spouse who feels she is left with no options as her depression and hopelessness deepen.

While not all cases of workplace bullying are necessarily so extreme as to cause brain damage, fully 70 to 80 percent of Americans report rudeness and incivility at work, and 41 percent report having been significantly harassed.

Hierarchical and highly competitive environments tend to have higher rates of bullying, as might be found in military or corporate environments. Research suggests that childhood bullies tend to become work bullies. Targets of bullying tend to be socially anxious personalities with low self-esteem.

There has been very little research on how to COPE with workplace bullying. In cases of mild disrespect, researchers suggest a direct, polite confrontation about the offending behaviors. In more EXTREME CASES, Sandy Herschcovis, a professor of business administration at the University of Manitoba, suggests reporting specific behaviors to higher-ups, as well as examining ones own behavior. Sometimes our own behavior contributes to the bullying relationship. Of course, in many workplace situations, a bullying supervisor is in good standing with his or her own higher-ups and even perceived as a positive go-getter, so it is difficult to determine a course of action under those circumstances.

There are no anti-bullying laws on the books, so researcher in workplace aggression still recommend to proceed with caution, negating somewhat their own self-empowering <RECOMMENDATIONS=.

HR [human resources] has no power or clout to make senior management stop,” said Gary Namie, a social psychologist who directs the Workplace Bullying Institute. “Without the laws, they’re not mandated to make policies, and without the mandate, they don’t know what to do.”

SOURCE

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Work Bully Victims Struggle with Dangerous Stress

By Stephanie Pappas,
LiveScience
January 12, 2012

If you spend your workday avoiding an abusive boss, tiptoeing around co-workers who talk behind your back, or eating lunch alone because you’ve been ostracized from your cubicle mates, you may be the victim of workplace bullying. New research suggests that you’re not alone, especially if you’re struggling to cope.

Employees with abusive bosses often deal with the situation in ways that inadvertently make them feel worse, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Stress Management. That’s bad news, as research suggests that workplace abuse is linked to stress and stress is linked to a laundry list of mental and physical ailments, including higher body weight and heart disease.

In at least one extreme case, workplace bullying has even been linked to suicide, much as schoolyard bullying has been linked to a RASH OF SUICIDES among young people.

Bullying is “a form of abuse which carries tremendous health harm,” said Gary Namie, a social psychologist who directs the Workplace Bullying Institute. “That’s how you distinguish it from tough management or any of the other cutesy ways people use to diminish it.”

Struggle to cope

Namie was not involved in the new study, which surveyed nearly 500 employees about how they dealt with abusive supervision. Abusive supervisors are bosses who humiliate and insult their employees, never let them forget their mistakes, break promises and isolate employees from other co-workers, study author Dana Yagil of the University of Haifa in Israel told LiveScience.

About 13 to 14 percent of Americans work under an abusive supervisor, Yagil said. Her study on Israeli workers found that abused employees tend to cope by avoiding their bosses, seeking support from co-workers and trying to reassure themselves. As useful as those strategies might sound, however, they actually made employees feel worse.

“It is understandable that employees wish to reduce the amount of their contact with an abusive boss to the minimum, but the strategies they use actually further increase their stress instead of reducing it,” Yagil said. “This may happen because these strategies are associated with a sense of weakness and perpetuate the employee’s fear of the supervisor.”

Tragic consequences

Avoiding a workplace bully might seem easier than avoiding a school bully, given that employees can quit their jobs. But workers get caught in a cycle of stress, Namie said. An online survey of targeted workers by the WBI found that they put up with the abuse for an average of 22 months.

The stress of the bullying may itself lead to bad decision-making, Namie said. A 2009 study in the journal Science found that stressed-out rats fail to adapt to changes in their environment. A portion of the stressed rats’ brains, the dorsomedial striatum, actually shrunk compared with that region in relaxed rats. The findings suggest that stress may actually re-wire the brain, creating a decision-making rut. The same may occur in bullied workers, Namie said.

“This is why a person can’t make quality decisions,” he said. “They can’t even consider alternatives. Just like a battered spouse, they don’t even perceive alternatives to their situations when they’re stressed and depressed and under attack.”

Sometimes this cycle ends with tragedy. Namie works as an expert legal witness on bullying. In one upcoming case, he said, a woman put up with daily barrages of screaming abuse from her boss for a year. By the end, she was working 18-hour days, trying to shield the employees under her from her boss’ tyranny, Namie said. Finally, she and several of her co-workers put together a 25-page complaint to human resources. Nothing happened, until she was called in for a meeting with senior management. The woman knew she would be fired for making the complaint, Namie said.

“Rather than allowing herself to be terminated, she bought a pistol, went to work, left three suicide notes, and she took her own life at work,” he said.

“She was like that rat stuck in a rut,” he added. “She didn’t see any alternative at that point.”

Why bullying happens

While all workplace-bullying cases are not so extreme, it does seem to be a common problem, said Sandy Herschcovis, a professor of business administration at the University of Manitoba who studies workplace aggression. Between 70 and 80 percent of Americans report rudeness and incivility at work, Herschcovis told LiveScience. Fewer are systematically bullied, she said, but the best estimate puts the number at about 41 percent of American workers having been psychologically harassed at work at some point.

Hierarchical organizations such as the military tend to have higher rates of bullying, Herschcovis said, as do places where the environment is highly competitive.

“Definitely the organizational context contributes,” Herschcovis said.

The personality of the bully is often key, with some research suggesting that childhood bullies become bullies as adults, she said. Targets of bullying are often socially anxious, have low self-esteem, or have personality traits such as narcissism, Herschcovis said. “We don’t want to blame the victim, but we recognize this more and more as a relationship” between the bully and the target, she said.

Little research has been done on how to deal with abusive bosses or bullying co-workers. In mild cases, where a boss may not realize how their behavior is coming across, direct confrontation might work, Yagil said. One research-based program that seems to have potential is called the Civility, Respect and Engagement at Work project, Herschcovis said. That program has been shown to improve workplace civility, reduce cynicism and improve job satisfaction and trust among employees, she said. The program has employees discuss rudeness and incivility in their workplace and make plans to improve. [8 Tactics to Bust the Office Bully]

For workers experiencing bullying, Herschcovis recommended reporting specific behavior to higher-ups, as well as examining one’s own behavior. Sometimes victims inadvertently contribute to the bullying relationship, she said. Namie cautioned that victims should proceed with care, however, as there are no anti-bullying workplace laws on the books in the U.S.

“HR [human resources] has no power or clout to make senior management stop,” Namie said. “Without the laws, they’re not mandated to make policies, and without the mandate, they donגt know what to do.”

Since 2003, 21 states have introduced some version of anti-bullying bills, but none have yet passed. Twelve states have legislation pending in 2012, according to healthyworkplacebill.org.

In the meantime, Herschcovis and her colleagues have found that bystanders in the workplace are usually sympathetic to the victim rather than the bully.

“Outside parties are most likely to want to intervene, and to be in a position to intervene,” Herschcovis said. The trick, she added, will be to find ways to encourage co-workers to stand up for one another.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 01/14/12 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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