Employees who don’t report workplace abuse are more likely to resolve it…

Workplace Bullying And The Things We May Control

When I was still being bullied at work I did speak up to management and the response was so frustrating that it wasn’t hard to conjure up fantasies of purposely making mistakes or other similar actions.  My older sister, who became my best mentor, counseled me repeatedly not to give in to these desires.  Instead she argued for what she calls the “Girl Scout Approach” [GSA].   Always there ready to slog through any job issue no matter how repetitive, unnecessary, demeaning or delusional.   Personally I draw the line at giving anyone a cookie when they are systematically trying to destroy me.  While this tactic did not prevent the devastating impact on my health or finances, I did survive with my resume intact and actually won in the end.  In no small part because I was able to remain a positive team player able to attract and build a support system of co-workers.  Wayne Hochwarter, a Professor at Florida State University,  conducted research that found that employees who remain silent about abuse were “three times more likely to proactively fix problems, including perceived abuse, than those who reported mistreatment.”   That’s a startling finding:

  • Thirty percent of those who reported abuse slowed down or purposely made errors, compared with 6 percent of those not reporting abuse.
  • Twenty-seven percent of those who reported abuse purposely hid from the boss, compared with 4 percent of those not reporting abuse.
  • Thirty-three percent of those who reported abuse confessed to not putting in maximum effort, compared with 9 percent of those not reporting abuse.
  • Twenty-nine percent of those who reported abuse took sick time off even when not ill, compared with 5 percent of those not reporting abuse.
  • Twenty-five percent of those who reported abuse took more or longer breaks, compared with 7 percent of those not reporting abuse.

Changing Our Work Environments

So, if you’ve reported to HR or your superiors that your boss is a bully and the investigation is going nowhere – if it’s happening at all – and you find yourself in your work cubicle plotting passive/aggressive revenge you definitely aren’t alone.  But, it’s just as easy to imagine that acting out these fantasies can wreak havoc on careers and resumes.  This month Channel 10 in Tampa reported that while findings indicate that our workplaces have become more toxic “Professor Hochwarter does see hope for the employee-boss relationship.”

An improving economy could shift expectations for employees from daily benchmarks to yearly output, and that, he says, could help make horrible bosses a little more human.”

Hochwarter is hopeful that creating a work environment that fosters “civility” and “a commitment to active communication, may cure many of these problems.”   It would be interesting to see how the types of behavior above are reflected in the responses and actions of HR, Arbitration, Mediation, and  Ombudsman services in their attempts to resolve these types of issues.