Just as Ontario passed a new bill making workplace harassment illegal, new research from Queen’s University’s School of Business indicates that workplace bullying can be more damaging than racial or gender harassment. “While ethnic harassment and gender harassment can both be attributed to prejudice, general workplace harassment is a subtle form of mistreatment that masks underlying motives, and is not as easily attributed to bias,” say report authors Jana Raver of Queen’s School of Business and Lisa Nishii of Cornell University, Caucasians reported higher levels of general workplace harassment than minorities, and women were not more likely than men to experience either gender harassment or general workplace harassment. Raver and Nishii also found that general workplace harassment may be especially detrimental because unlike gender and ethnic harassment, it is not illegal in most of North America. A study released by Queen’s University in 2008 also found workplace harassment to be more harmful than sexual harassment because of a lack of recourse for victims. Bill 168, which came into effect in Ontario in July 2010, requires employers to develop and communicate workplace violence prevention policies, assess the risks of workplace violence, and take reasonable precautions to protect workers from domestic violence in the workplace. Ontario was the third province to legislate against workplace violence and harassment, along with Quebec and Saskatchewan.
The Queen’s University study looked at more than 735 employees from a range or organizations and occupations over a period of four weeks. Participants completed the measures of harassment and demographics in the first survey and then completed measures of job attitudes, turnover intentions, psychological well-being and health in the second survey four weeks later. The results were published in the March 2010 Journal of Applied Psychology.
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