Much of the advice given by co-workers , friends and family to targets of workplace bullying doesn’t help or makes things worse.
This is the upshot of an article in this month’s issue of The Journal of Applied Communication Research by Stacy Tye-Williams, a communications study professor at Iowa State University, and Kathy Krone, a professor of organizational communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The researchers surveyed 48 targets of workplace bullying about the effectiveness of the advice they’ were given to address the bullying. The top suggestions include: quit the job or get out of the situation, ignore the bullying, fight or stand up to the bully, or report the bullying.
The researchers say there is a “strong possibility” that direct confrontation of a bully will result in retaliation and the target will be labelled as a problem employee.
Many targets of workplace bullying “are treated as if they are overly emotional or behaving as if they are responsible for single-handedly stopping the bullying.” This attitude “helps sustain an orientation toward organizational life that privileges rationality over emotionality and individual expression over community.”Moreover, urging individual targets to ‘remain calm’ and ‘stay rational’ overestimates the difference a single individual can make, downplays the significance of strong emotional responses to bullying, and constrains the ability to think and act with greater freedom.”
Another problem, according to the researchers, is that targets of past workplace bullying often tell targets who are currently experiencing the problem to use strategies that proved ineffective for the original target.
The researchers say there is a need for good strategies to successfully combat workplace bullying. “We don’t have a lot of success stories out there,” said Tye-Williams.
The study defines workplace bullying as repeated verbal and nonverbal acts over a period of time intended to inflict humiliation harm.
The United States continues to be among the only developed countries in the world that ignores the plague of workplace bullying, which is a form of workplace violence that causes potentially serious mental and physical harm to workers. An estimated one out of every three or four workers experiences workplace bullying.
This blog has noted that employers are responsible for creating a safe workplace free of harassment and violence. The author advocates adoption of a uniform federal workplace bullying law, such as extending the anti-harassment provision of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to all workers and not hose who suffer discrimination.