Workplace Harassment

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An Analysis of Workplace Harassment and Bullying in Today’s Society Introduction
Workplace harassment and bullying occurs when an employee subjects another employee to degrading behaviour, whether verbal abuse and threats or actual physical violence. It is an inappropriate expression of power that affects workers and their productivity in an unfavourable way (Spry, 1998). Management, and other types of employees, who occupy high-status roles sometimes believe that harassing their subordinates is within their rights and make demands of the lower-status employees (Langton, Robbins, Judge, 2010, p. 313). Harassment is often a result of stress, power, differences of opinion, undefined expectations of management, absent policies, and tasks not being clearly defined. It may occur when management ignores, or is not aware of, conflict. It is important that management is attentive to this growing topic of concern among organizations so they are able to identify and intervene early in order to prevent harassment. Harassment is considered to have taken place if the perpetrator knew, or ought to have known, that the behaviour was unwelcome. Management and employees need to realize that what is not offensive to one employee may be offensive to another. While harassment is usually based on an ongoing pattern of abuse, in some instances a single incident can be sufficiently serious to constitute harassment. Harassment is not confined to a manager-employee setting. It can also take form through co-workers; subordinates; customers, suppliers and consultants of the organization; and members of the general public. The effects of any type of harassment are the same (O'Leary-Kelly, Bowes-Sperry, Bates, & Lean, 2009). Although there are all these other ways employees can be harassed, co-worker harassment is the most common form. Although co-workers do not hold a position of power, they have influence and can exploit it to harass others (Langton et al., p. 313). People who engage in harassment in the workplace are typically abusing their power position. The manager-employee relationship best characterizes an unequal power relationship, where position power gives the manager the capacity to reward and coerce its subordinates (Langton et al., 2010, p. 314). Types of Harassment

Bullying
Today's workforce is aware of the physical and emotional grief that can be caused by bullying. Most individuals only perceive bullying as an issue related to youth; however, the reality is that bullying has moved from the playgrounds of childhood to the offices and boardrooms of the corporate world. A study by Céleste Brotheridge, a professor in Montreal, found that approximately 40 percent of people had experienced moderate bullying in the past six months and another ten percent reported more severe bullying (Langton et al., 2010, p. 314). Bullying involves repeated acts, either deliberate or unknown, that cause humiliation and distress to the victim. The acts interfere with job performance by causing an unpleasant work environment. The goal of a bully is to weaken others in order to boost his or her self-esteem. This is accomplished through threats, intimidation, verbal and physical abuse, demeaning and condescending interactions with other employees, or any other form of degrading behaviour. A workplace bully often uses legitimate power over individuals lower in the organizational hierarchy to enhance his or her own feelings of power, competence, and value (Harvey, Hearnes, Richey & Leonard, 2006). Power is a key concept in relation to bullying, which is not only applicable to individual employees but also to team and group settings. When a bully is the leader of a group, he or she wants to not only achieve goals but to obtain the power and control that leadership brings. The unfortunate fact is that bullies use the privilege of leadership for their own psychological gain, and abuse the position they hold by over-exerting their power over others...
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