Workplace aggression and school bullying

On Mar. 17, 2014, Sandy Hershcovis (Business) discussed how witnesses react to workplace aggression. Her argument is that we know a lot about perpetrators of such behaviours but we don’t know a lot about those who witness such behaviour. She is interested in how witnesses react to both the perpetrators and the targets in these situations, and how they perceive the situations they are witnessing. Finally, to what extent are they willing to intervene? She argues that aggression occurs in all organizations and it impacts corporate culture when incivility is normalized. By addressing how witnesses react, we can ensure that it is not normalized. We can also use witness intervention as a means of decreasing occurrences. There are two ways in which witnesses can help: punishment, and support. That is, witnesses can choose to support the target, or punish the perpetrator, by allocating unfavourable work to perpetrators, or not recommending perpetrators for future jobs. In order to test this, Hershcovis and a colleague carried out an experiment. They found that witnesses to the uncivil conditions did perceive the perpetrators in a negative light. Witnessing incivility led to anger towards the instigator, which led to more negative evaluations of the instigators, and assigning them less favourable work. However, there were no direct effects on targets. In terms of prevention, the team examined whether people would intervene or if they would simply ignore the situation when power was a factor. Witnesses still viewed perpetrators negatively, however witnesses who have low power in the workplace ignore incivility.

Donn Short (Law) discussed anti-gay bullying, speaking to the need to change the climate and cultures of schools. He began his research by examining the Safe Schools Act in Ontario, including how it defines safety, how schools pursue safety, and to what extent were schools aware of the act? Students wanted administration and teachers to address both physical and verbal threats, but also technology. Short found a lot of schools use technology to keep schools safe. For example, the increased use of surveillance cameras and dress codes, such as no ball caps, to make them effective. However, Short found that the students saw this as a means to ignore the greater culture in the school with respect to attitudes towards the gay community. In particular, students saw the need for a change in curriculum. Gay students felt excluded and saw a need for real discussion on issues such as same-sex parenting. The vast majority of schools saw a safe school as a secure school: security guards, dress codes and security cameras. The majority of schools did not act proactively to curb culture. A few schools made tackling the culture a priority.

Questions:

Where do you think Manitoba’s new bullying legislation falls short?

I think the next thing is curriculum. It needs to be addressed. There needs to be some sort of mandated content in the same way Manitoba has Aboriginal content legislated.

Did students find the legislation was helpful?

It depends. In a lot of schools, there was a gap. Each school was required to set up a committee to address this. And in some schools social justice was central. However, in a lot of schools it was not and security became central. After the fact responses do not do anything about prevention.

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