Workplace bullying, abuse, and incivility: More evidence we’re starting to get it

The media is a great barometer for assessing the degree to which workplace bullying, abuse, and incivility have entered the mainstream of American employment relations. Here are examples of press coverage indicating that we’re making the connections:

Time and Wired report on Tel Aviv University study: Work can kill

Meredith Melnick, blogging for Time magazine, reports on a 20-year study by researchers at Tel Aviv University (link here)

“My job is killing me.” Who among us hasn’t issued that complaint at least once? Now a new study suggests that your dramatic grousing may hold some scientific truth.

The 20-year study, by researchers at Tel Aviv University, sought to examine the relationship between the workplace and a person’s risk of death.

…The researchers tracked the participants through their medical records: by the study’s conclusion in 2008, 53 people had died — and they were significantly more likely than those who survived to report having a hostile work environment.

Jonah Lehrer, blogging for Wired, also reported on the Tel Aviv study (link here):

In particular, the risk of death seemed to be correlated with the perceived niceness of co-workers, as less friendly colleagues were associated with a higher risk of dying. (What’s troubling is that such workplaces seem incredibly common.) While this correlation might not be surprising – friendly people help reduce stress, and stress is deadly – the magnitude of the “friendly colleague effect” is a bit unsettling: people with little or no “peer social support” in the workplace were 2.4 times more likely to die during the study, especially if they began the study between the ages of 38 and 43. In contrast, the niceness of the boss had little impact on mortality.

This study is attracting a lot of attention from the media and the anti-bullying community. So far I’ve seen three other news articles referencing it and numerous Facebook postings.

APA Annual Meeting: Workplace incivility on the rise

Sharon Jayson reports for USA Today on the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting (link here):

“Workplace incivility” is on the rise, researchers said Sunday at the American Psychological Association annual meeting.

…Research suggests “75% to 80% of people have experienced incivility. It’s a growing and prevalent problem,” said Jeannie Trudel of Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion.

“It’s very hard to target because you don’t really know if someone actually means to be rude or if it’s just off the cuff, so it’s an insidious problem,” Trudel says. “There are very, very negative effects of accumulated minor stresses.”

Workforce Management: “Horrible Bosses” resonates

Ronald Alsop, editor of Workforce Management magazine, recently went to see the movie “Horrible Bosses,” and here’s a snippet of his review:

I went to see the film last month, expecting a lot of goofy, off-color workplace humor. I wasn’t disappointed. The bosses from hell—played to the hilt by actors Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell—are great fun to watch.

But there’s a more serious message underlying their wicked, over-the-top antics. While other films, such as 9 to 5, have depicted office dictators, the storyline in Horrible Bosses is especially resonant in the job market of 2011.

Alsop concedes that bad bosses are nothing new, but recognizes that employees have fewer options in a terrible economy. In the movie, the three mistreated workers decide that extraordinary measures are necessary to free themselves of their tormenters:

That choice is clearly far-fetched, but it speaks to the current job climate where some people feel trapped at their companies. They’re afraid to quit and take their chances in a still precarious job market. Without an exit strategy, they feel out of control and downright miserable to the point of mental and physical illness.


Hat tips to Susan Thomas (USA Today article) and to Andrea Weckerle & Workplace Bullying Institute (blog articles on Tel Aviv study).

One response

  1. Our goverment is doing very little to help straighten out workplace bullying. I was working for the federal goverment, and wrote to 23 senators, and assembly persons. The only reply I received back was from Governor Cuomo. The Buffalo VA has a management problem, is sets up nurses to fail, then pushes them out the door. This has been going on for over six years, according to other VA employees. If our goverment can’t straighten its own house up, then how can they straighten up separate states. We demand new management at the Western NYS VA system.
    US Air Force/Persian Gulf Veteran

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