Nearly 6 out of 10 workers exposed to workplace harassment

Culprits often women: Survey

More than one-half (57 per cent) of working Canadians have experienced or witnessed workplace harassment, according to a survey released by Queen’s School of Business at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

Inappropriate “love taps” and coerced office affairs aren’t the only acts constituting harassment behaviours — harassment can take a variety of insidious forms that are sometimes difficult to identify, according to Jana Raver, associate professor at Queen’s School of Business.

“While we no longer smoke and drink in the office like the characters from Mad Men, Don Draper’s style of workplace harassment is still alive and well in 2012,” said Raver. “Many offenders rationalize their actions as harmless but this isn’t a TV show that ends in 60 minutes — it’s real life and a single incident of harassment can cause long-lasting suffering for the victim.”

Gender dynamics play a role but not strictly in the male versus female way that many of us may think, she said. While men are disproportionately identified as the culprits, with one-half of the harassment inflicted solely by them, when women experience harassment (personally or as a witness), they are twice as likely as men to report it came from another woman (30 per cent versus 15 per cent of men).

Women are also more likely to reveal they have personally experienced harassment (33 per cent versus 26 per cent of men), found the survey of 1,505 people.

“Today’s workplace bully can be male or female but while men tend to bully both women and men equally, female bullies tend to disproportionately choose other female colleagues as targets,” said Raver. “And contrary to stereotypes of bullies preying on the weak for power, most targets of bullying in the office — regardless of gender — tend to be the average and above-average performers.”

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