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Crisis Centre

Is your boss behaving badly?

University researcher launches study on how bullies exert power and control in the workplace

Workplace bullying can have significant effects on the other parts of our lives, including our health.
Workplace bullying can have significant effects on the other parts of our lives, including our health.

Intimidation, coercion, persistent criticism and threats: even if you haven’t experienced any of these behaviours on the job, chances are you know someone who has.

Despite all the anecdotes you may hear about tyrant bosses, formal research on workplace bullying is sparse. Workplace bullying is also difficult to pin down. Harassment is usually defined by overt actions (name calling, inappropriate physical and sexual touching). But some abusive behaviours (social isolation, threatening someone’s wages or job, or deliberately giving someone dangerous work that puts them at risk of injury) are more covert. Victims may not even realize they are being bullied, or may be reluctant to report it.

Hannah Scott, PhD, a criminology researcher at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, is trying to change the way we think about bullying. She has launched a new Bullying in the Workplace study to better understand what people go through when they are bullied on the job. Specifically, the study will look at the wide range of behaviours used by bullies to exert power and control over their workers and co-workers. The survey is open until Saturday, September 15, and is anonymous and confidential.

Developed in partnership with the Durham Region Labour Council, the project came about, in part, as a result of Dr. Scott’s own personal experiences with workplace bullying years ago, as well as discussions with others over the course of many years. The people she spoke with reported a wide range of symptoms—everything from anxiety and depression to physical effects, such as getting sick more often. 

“Workplace bullying is such an important issue, given we often spend a significant portion of our lives at work,” says Dr. Scott, a Professor with the university’s Faculty of Social Science and Humanities. “How we experience that time can have significant effects on the other parts of our lives, including health.”  

“I have never worked on a project with a response like this one,” she says. “I think people just want to feel validated about some of the terrible workplace experiences they have had at the hands of a bad boss.”

Media contacts:

Hannah Scott, PhD
Professor
Faculty of Social Science and Humanities
University of Ontario Institute of Technology
905.721.8668 ext. 2653
hannah.scott@uoit.ca

Patricia Pickett
Communications and Marketing
University of Ontario Institute of Technology
905.721.8668 ext. 6710
patricia.pickett@uoit.ca

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