Women, Minorities More Likely to Report Workplace Bullying

Posted On May 8, 2017

Women and minority groups report experiencing higher levels of workplace bullying, according to a new study by Georgia State University researchers. Listen to Brandon and co-author Linda Treiber discuss their study on GPB’s On Second Thought on May 8.

The study, published in the journal Social Science Research, found that in addition to experiencing higher levels of workplace bullying, women and minorities also report higher levels of anxiety and lower levels of social support from coworkers.

“Unfortunately, bullying at work is a relatively common phenomenon,” said lead author Brandon K. Attell, a research associate at the Georgia Health Policy Center. “Recent national studies show that around one in five Americans has experienced workplace bullying, either now or in the past.”

Workplace bullying is not a one-time incident and takes the form of targeting an individual, often by his or her manager. Experts say behaviors that define workplace bullying are different than the ordinary pressures of work and include being subjected to slurs or jokes about gender or race, being given tasks no one else wants to do, being ignored or not taken seriously and being humiliated in front of others.

“Those who experience workplace bullying are at increased risk for a variety of adverse health outcomes like anxiety, depression and cardiovascular disease, among others,” said coauthor Kiersten Kummerow, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at Georgia State.

The researchers used survey data from the national 2010 Health and Retirement Study. They analyzed responses from nearly 2,300 individuals.

The researchers found women and black individuals were more heavily affected by the effects of workplace bullying and protected less from social support from coworkers. The authors say taken together, these findings show a process whereby workplace bullying causes psychological distress (anxiety, hopelessness and stress) and that a lack of peer social support (a protector from the ill effects of workplace bullying) further contributes to adverse mental health consequences.

“The results of our study demonstrate why employers and state policymakers should be aware of workplace bullying and the effects it has on individual’s health,” Kummerow said. “One possible avenue to help address bullying at work is the consideration at the state level to adopt policies that allow employers and employees alike multiple avenues to identify bullying and redress the various consequences it has at the organizational and individual level.”

“If workplace bullying can be prevented, individuals will experience less stress at work and will in turn have better mental health,” Attell said. “Additionally, employees who are less stressed are more loyal to their organizations, perform better on the job and have less absenteeism.”

Read the study at sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0049089X16305087.