TORONTO — Workplace harassment in Canada is taking on new forms and new faces as demographics shift, according to a recent Leger Marketing study commissioned by the Queen's School of Business.
Though Mad Men's central characters Don Draper and his associates continue to personify the typical face of workplace harassment, a new group of workplace bullies is emerging.
"Men alone are the predominant perpetrators . . . but when women are bullies, they tend to choose to bully other women," says Jana Raver, an organizational behaviour expert and associate professor at the Queen's School of Business. "They're twice as likely to pick another woman as they are to pick a man. This is somewhat surprising, and in some ways it goes along with what you hear colloquially, but on the other hand people are saying, 'shouldn't women be supporting each other? What's going on here?' "
Kristina Hidas, vice-president of human resources research and development for the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) says the results of the Queen's research mirror trends her organization has been seeing among younger-aged girls who have become more comfortable with bullying other girls.
"It's carrying over (from younger ages)," she says. "We're seeing a reduction in privacy levels and I see this as a continuation."
Raver says that while the study did not delve into the reasons why women tend to single out other women for harassment, part of the reason may relate to their perception of men as being traditionally powerful and therefore more difficult to target, while women — who have traditionally held less power in the business world — are easier to bully.
Another explanation, says Raver, could be that harassment of women by women may in some instances be an outcome of a higher density of women in a particular workplace.
Whatever the reason, most incidents of harassment continue to go unreported because reporting harassment is always "shameful, guilt-ridden and humiliating" for the victim, says Hidas.
Across Canada, provincial legislators have been working to broaden the scope and definition of workplace harassment to ensure it encompasses all forms of potential aggression in the workplace, including upsetting and unwelcome comments so that workplaces maintain an overarching culture of civility and decorum. The legislation was inspired in part by ever-evolving workplace demographics that have introduced new frictions that didn't exist 15 or 20 years ago.
Raver says one of these newly emerging trends includes gender harassment of men who don't demonstrate the stereotypical or traditional character traits of their gender. "Men who take paternity leaves or who don't have stereotypically male traits or men who are homosexual are reporting much higher levels of harassment from men for being counter-normative to their gender."
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