Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Workplace Bullying: Curing the Cancer of the American Workplace

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Workplace Bullying: Curing the Cancer of the American Workplace

Article excerpt

The purpose of this work is to investigate the phenomenon of workplace bullying. Particularly, it will investigate the hypothesis that supervisor/employee workplace bullying is an issue that has great weight in modern organizational dynamics, especially considering the increasingly tight labor market the United States finds itself in today. It further postulates that the business unit that bears the most responsibility to administer programs to address workplace bullying is the human resource function. The actions of this business unit (or lack of actions) in dealing with this phenomenon have tremendous implications for the organization.

The method used to research these hypotheses was to conduct an extensive literature review on the subject. This included a sampling of thought from throughout the English-speaking world.

The findings of this research concluded that a radically different type of supervisor/subordinate relationship is required in this era of an increasingly tight labor market; defined the consensus on the actual definition of what workplace bullying is, and is not; identified workplace bullying as a widespread phenomenon, and not a "red herring;" identified that workplace bullying has high costs to both the employee target, and the organization; described what motivates a supervisor to bully; revealed what types of organizations foster and perpetuate workplace bullying; identified the role of the human resources department in workplace bullying; and provided advice for human resource professionals as to what they can do to both address present bullying, and prevent an environment that could foster workplace bullies in the future.

It is impossible to not be aware of the thriving economy the United States finds itself in today. The stock market has climbed to historic levels, businesses are at near peak productivity, and, as Table 1 indicates,[1] unemployment levels in this country are at a record low.


Within this ever-tightening labor market, the competition among firms for an ever-shrinking labor pool is becoming intense. This unique labor environment has given potential employees an unusual opportunity to be more discriminating in their decisions as to whom they will, and will not, offer their labors. Employers now, more than ever, must expound on their value to the potential employee, above and beyond simply offering them a day's pay.

Furthermore, employers not only have to be concerned with attracting new employees to their fold, but they also have to consider the retention of the current employees, who may leave for what they may consider to be greener pastures. Potential and current employees of an organization are looking not only at compensation as a factor for choosing an employer, but intangibles, such as organizational culture and quality-of-life factors as well.

To emphasize this, a recent study on the subject found that, "Compensation was not the primary motivation employees gave for choosing to quit their jobs. Nearly 95% of the respondents said the primary factor for deciding to leave was whether or not they will be able to develop a trusting relationship with their manager."[2]

These results were not just a red herring. Another research study found that:

   "Empirical evidence broadcasts a consistent message: People reporting to
   more considerate bosses are less likely to suffer the ravages of burnout
   and more likely to experience work satisfaction than those reporting to
   less considerate bosses. ...Conversely, there is solid evidence that
   working for un-supportive bosses is associated with higher levels of
   anxiety, depression, and even heart disease."[3]

Finally, adding one more log to the fire, an author offers, "The biggest factor that affects workers' happiness is the quality of their immediate supervisor."[4]

This all being the case, the purpose of this report will be to examine those less considerate, competent, and supportive bosses who do not develop a trusting relationship with their staffs. …

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