HALIFAX – Nova Scotia, Canada is bringing in regulatory definitions for bullying that will be first in Canada to include bystanders as having a role in bullying behavior.
The government’s definition of bullying and cyber-bullying is part of a response to a task force report on the issue which recommended a consistent definition of the terms be developed for the education system.
Bullying is defined in the rules as “ behavior, typically repeated, that is intended to cause or should be known to cause fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or other harm to another person’s body, feelings, self-esteem, reputation or property.”
The definition says bullying can be direct or indirect, and includes assisting or encouraging the behavior in any way.
The province says consistent reporting will provide better data to help determine appropriate responses and program needs.
What are the dangers of second-hand bullying?
We’ve long heard about the dangers of second-hand smoke. A U.S. researcher has now uncovered the dangers of second-hand bullying. A study from the University of New Hampshire has found that bully bosses who target employees with ridicule, public criticism and the silent treatment also have a negative effect on co-workers.
he research found that employees who see abuse taking place, or even hear about it, suffer from a spillover effect.
Those symptoms show up in job frustration, growing distrust of the organization and a fear that they may become subjected to bullying in the future, the authors say.
“We were curious to see if there was a spillover effect,” Paul Harvey, one of the study’s authors, told Torstar News Service.
“There are spillover effects in other facets of work life, where negative things affect other people. And we were curious to see if abuse affects more than the target of the abuse and we found it does in very similar ways, but not to the same degree of course.”
Harvey, associate professor of organizational behaviour at the university, reports that he believes this was the first ever study to investigate second-hand bullying, or what the authors call “vicarious supervisory abuse.”
The research involved a sample of 233 people who work in a wide range of occupations in the southeast U.S.
One of the “more telling consequences” of the study, Harvey said, was that those who knew of abuse happening had a dimmer view of their organization.
“Presumably, they’re assuming this is allowed to happen,” Harvey said. “This is occurring and no one is stopping it.”
Previous studies, he said, have also shown that people who see abuse happening in the workplace turn around and abuse others.
“We were a little surprised to see they were more likely to become abusive,” Harvey said.
This is not misplaced aggression because the abuse wasn’t happening to them directly.
“But we think there might be cultural element to it. They have the assumption that, OK, it’s tolerated here, so I can do it. So they’re basically saying, ‘I can be a jerk to other people.’”
Harvey called on management to seek further education to prevent and mitigate the effects of such abuse.
The researchers suggest that more study needs to be done in the area of second-hand bullying.
Harvey admits that the ratings of abuse in this study could be distorted by rumour and myth and that minor incidents could become exaggerated with each retelling.
The research appeared in the Journal of Social Psychology.
The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a public research university with 12,200 undergraduate and 2,300 graduate students.