Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Joe Queenan, humorist and observer of American life, claims that the recession has freed us of workplace jerks because (1) “in times of high unemployment, most people don’t care if they work with jerks” and (2) “jerks are often the first people fired during recessions.”
Reading Queenan’s entire op-ed piece, it appears he cannot decide whether the jerk phenomenon is a real problem or the product of oversensitive employees who whine about disagreeable co-workers when times are good.
In any event, when it comes to workplace bullying — the repeated, targeted, malicious stuff that wreaks such havoc — he’s wrong to suggest that “jerks” suddenly disappear or magically become less destructive simply because people are stressed out about their job security.
Social psychologist Harvey Hornstein studied patterns and frequency of abusive supervision during the economic downturn of the 1990s and found that bullying activities intensify as times get tough. The Workplace Bullying Institute’s analysis of survey data on the impact of the current recession indicates that bullying has been on the upswing since September 2008, when the financial meltdown went into overdrive (http://www.workplacebullying.org/2009/07/01/2009-a-survey/).
In addition, when bullying occurs during a recession, targets have fewer options for leaving and finding another job. They may be less likely to complain about bullying because they fear unemployment, but this means they’re more likely to bottle up the impact of the abusive behavior as it continues to take its toll on their health.
For Queenan’s “The Fall of the Workplace Jerk”: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124649379765483227.html