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Workplace Bullying

A study on the work environment, well-being and health

Maarit Vartia

Helsinki: Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, People and Work Research Reports 56; 2003. (68 p. + app.)
Bogomtale fra forlaget.

This study examines the phenomenon of workplace bullying in various organizational settings, with a special focus on the relationships between bullying, the work environment, well-being and health. Cross-sectional questionnaire surveys were carried out among 949 municipal employees and 1870 prison workers (896 prison officers). Longitudinal data on 5,432 hospital employees comprised responses to two surveys over a two-year period.
Bullying was most common in prisons (prevalence 20.1%), followed by municipal institutions (10.1%) and hospitals (5.0%). Both being a target of bullying and observing bullying correlated with a poor social climate, a poor managerial climate and the amount of violence by inmates, suggesting that work environment-factors may play an important role at the onset of workplace bullying. The victims of bullying scored lower on self-esteem than the other respondents.
Both victims and observers of bullying reported more stress and job dissatisfaction than employees from workplaces in which no bullying occurred. The longitudinal study showed that prolonged bullying was associated with increased incidence of depression (odds ratio 4.81) and cardiovascular disease (2.31). Depression also predicted subsequent bullying.
Gender differences in facing workplace bullying seemed to be small. Men and women perceived bullying equally often across the samples studied. Female prison officers felt subjected to sexual harassment more often than their male counterparts. Female victims were usually bullied by their co-workers, whereas male victims reported supervisors/ managers and co-workers as bullies equally often.
The findings imply that measures should be introduced to deal with bullying in the workplace and that improving the social climate and leadership practices would help to prevent it in the future. Further longitudinal research and studies of group processes that can strengthen or arrest the escalation of the bullying process are needed.