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Bullying in the Workplace Can Affect Employees

Update Date: Jun 29, 2012 03:03 PM EDT

Exposure to bullying in the workplace can cause nurses to quit their job. That's according to a Canadian study published in the journal Human Relations published by SAGE.

The research revealed that "merely showing up to work in an environment where bullying goes on is enough to make many of us think about quitting." The researchers studied nearly 400 nurses in 42 hospitals and concluded that "nurses even if not bullied directly, but who worked in an environment where workplace bullying occurred, felt a stronger urge to quit than those actually being bullied.

Of particular note is the fact that we could predict turnover intentions as effectively either by whether someone was the direct target of bullying, or by how much an environment was characterized by bullying," said corresponding author, Marjan Houshmand. "This is potentially interesting because we tend to assume that direct, personal experiences should be more influential upon employees than indirect experiences only witnessed or heard about in a second-hand fashion. Yet our study identifies a case where direct and indirect experiences have a similarly strong relationship to turnover intentions."

Research results showed that "targets of bullying were more likely to be thinking of leaving" and that the positive relationship between work unit-level bullying and turnover intentions is stronger for those who rarely experienced direct bullying compared with those who are bullied often."

Researchers say that although individuals may experience resentment at others being bullied, "it is perceived as being even more unfair when others are bullied and they are not."

"This work provides insight into the bullying targets' understanding of their experiences and it challenges the 'passive' view of workplace bullying that characterizes the targets of bullying as hapless victims who are too vulnerable and weak to fight their bullies," Houshmand suggests. "Instead, the targets of bullying see 'escaping' their own and other people's bullies as a means to create turmoil and disrupt the organization as an act of defiance."

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