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Researcher to Study Male Workplace Bullying

Willing men sought to share experiences for project

Researchers from the faculty of nursing at the University of New Brunswick are taking an in-depth look at the impact of workplace bullying on men in New Brunswick.

Judith MacIntosh, a professor at the nursing school and lead researcher, said yesterday the project is now underway and the researchers are looking for men willing to tell them, on a confidential basis, about their experiences being bullied or harassed on the job. MacIntosh has led several other research projects on workplace bullying, but they have focused either on women or on men and women together.

She said that based on her work so far, she finds men are confronted with a lot of the same kind of psychological harassment that women face. She says the men she has interviewed tell her they are bullied by women, other men, bosses and co-workers.

“What has come forth in my study so far is that men are experiencing a lot of what we call psychological bullying: verbal harassment, intimidation, threats and comments that diminish them personally, criticism of their competence and their abilities – and that hurts,” she said in an interview.

“So far, I would say psychological bullying or harassment has been prominent in my work. It is not vastly different from what women experience.”

MacIntosh said employers have to start dealing with the high cost of bullying in their workplaces. She said there is a lot of absenteeism because of this kind of harassment, including people who have to take paid sick leave. In addition, she said it affects productivity as targets of bullies spend a lot of time looking over their shoulders instead of getting their work done.

“It costs employers in the billions of dollars annually to deal with workplace bullying,” MacIntosh said.

“Plus we know from a large study in the United States that about 70 per cent of people bullied at work wind up leaving the workplace. So that means you have replacement costs, recruitment costs and you have reputational costs when you have a lot of turnover.”

There is no precise definition of what constitutes workplace bullying, which comes in many forms. It may include verbal abuse, such as use of derogatory remarks, insults and epithets; inconsistent and contradictory directives; poor performance evaluations, and freezing out employees from participating in important workplace or social activities. ”

Some call it harassment at work, or workplace abuse, or violence at work – it goes by a number of definitions,” MacIntosh said. “Basically it covers that whole range of behaviour by someone at work that is repeated over time and has harmful effects on targets.”

The UNB study will last about six months, MacIntosh said.

The researchers are looking for male subjects from across New Brunswick, rural and urban, part-time and full-time workers.

The study involves taking part in a private interview that takes about an hour and men will be given $25 for their time. Everything is kept private. Anyone interested in taking part in the study can call researchers toll-free at 1-888-457-6600 or by e-mail: health@unb.ca

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