June 2013

Manitoba Chamber of Commerce

Issue link: http://publications.winnipegfreepress.com/i/141831

Contents of this Issue


Page 36 of 55

hr headquarters "It shows that bullying adversely affects target or victim performance — their creativity, their job satisfaction, their commitment to the company, their health and well-being," Hershcovis says. "They take more days off for sick days and for doctors and so on, and it also leads to higher turnover, which is obviously very costly." In some cases, bullies are customers. For example, a legal assistant might have to suck up abuse from a law firm's valuable client. But clients aren't omnipresent, and they generally don't have the power to destroy your livelihood. Hershcovis says her own research shows bullying has the most negative impact when it comes from an insider, especially when the perpetrator is a supervisor. Physical attacks are rare, and targets of bullying don't usually respond with violence. They're much more likely to retaliate in subtle ways — slacking off at work or making their boss look bad. They might file a complaint, but harassment is difficult to prove and reporting it can make matters worse. "There's actually research to show that when targets or victims report it or confront the perpetrator they experience even stronger counterretaliation from the bully, so it really is a tough situation for victims," Hershcovis says. "Quitting is really the only surefire way of stopping it, which is pretty unfortunate." However, organizations can create a culture that prevents bullying. Hershcovis advises companies to set clear policies that define bullying. They should ensure employees understand what constitutes bullying and what they need to do to file a complaint if they feel they're a target. "Describe the investigation procedures and the punishment that will happen if a person is found guilty of bullying," Hershcovis says. "Making those policies really clear can help to deter it, and also help raise awareness because I think sometimes people just don't understand what they're doing — what their behaviour is causing other people to feel." Hershcovis says male and female bullies may have different styles — men are more direct and more likely to express outright anger, while women take a more subtle approach — but they bully in equal numbers. She says bullies come in all shapes, but they tend to exhibit the same negative personality traits. They're more inclined to be angry in general, they're skeptical of others and they're narcissistic. "What's more interesting is that targets exhibit the same traits," she says. And that raises provocative questions about the interactive nature of bullying. In some cases, targets may contribute to their own mistreatment by engaging in negative behaviours. "It's not necessarily all about this awful perpetrator. Behaviour — whether it's positive or negative in organizations — is very reciprocal." It can also spill over to other relationships. Hershcovis says when someone is bullied at work, their spouse is also more stressed. "Recent research shows that when people are bullied by their supervisor at work they'll go home and undermine their family members," she says. "It's scary because you don't know .... if you undermine your family and kids, do they then go to school and bully at school?" CAN MINDING YOUR MANNERS BE BAD FOR BUSINESS? A coworker who constantly calls in sick, takes two-hour lunches and ducks out early every Friday complains to you about his crushing workload. What do you do? If you're like most of us, you pick your jaw up off the floor, make comforting noises and wait until you're back in your cubicle to perform an epic eye roll. This is what I.H. Asper School of Business associate professor Sandy Hershcovis calls the dark side of civility. And as a researcher who's studied all kinds of workplace aggression, she thinks the flip side may be worth exploring. "I'm just interested in understanding how the norms of civility that are pretty prevalent in organizations in some ways enable bad behaviour," she says. "You sit there sympathizing with them instead of saying, 'Well, you know what, how about you stop calling in sick so often and come in once in a while?' But we never do, right? We all sort of say, 'Poor you, how awful.' " If Hershcovis launches a full-scale research project, she won't have any trouble finding anecdotal material. It seems we've all known a notorious slacker who has the moxy to complain they've been worked like a mule or unfairly passed over for promotion. "Lots of people don't pull their weight, but somehow they think they do," she says. If there's a remedy, we look forward to hearing about it. But Hershcovis isn't making any promises just yet. "It's an interesting question and I don't know how to really attack it," she says. "But I think we do enable bad behaviour when we fail to speak up or say what we really think and instead engage in these sympathetic cooing noises that make us good friends but not necessarily good colleagues." SUMMER 2013 MBiz June 2013_final.indd Sec2:u 'peg BIZ | 21 6/21/13 4:48:44 PM

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of MBiz - June 2013