Abused employees don't talk to managers

People who are abused by bosses at work prefer to avoid direct communication with their managers, new research has shown. Published in the International Journal of Stress Management, the study found it is often easier said than done when it comes to confronting employers.

According to investigators at the University of Haifa, many people choose not to talk to their boss about these problems, even though doing so would prove the most effective in terms of emotional wellbeing.

Professor Dana Yagil of the learning institute - which was established in 1963 - noted abusive supervision can prove highly distressing for workers, adding: "Our study shows that the strategies being used by employees to cope with the stress caused by such behaviour do not lead to the most positive outcomes."

It was demonstrated that communicating with a manager related strongest to an employee's positive emotions, while avoiding them was linked to more negative feelings.

Kisane Prutton, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "This is an interesting study which is likely to have culturally influences. It does however demonstrate the universal human need for respect from others and respect for oneself.

"Adopting a passive response in an abusive working relationship will typically reduce self-esteem, confidence and resilience - erosion of these psychological building blocks will have a negative impact on emotional and physical well-being."

Aryanne Oade, Charterted Psychologist and author of Managing Workplace Bullying: How to Identify, Respond to and Manage Bullying Behaviour in the Workplace, added:

"Workplace bullying is primarily about one colleague deciding to employ behaviour which is emotionally and psychologically punishing in their dealings with another colleague. What workplace bullies want to achieve is to set up a dynamic whereby they remove power from the colleagues they target and place it with themselves. If the person employing bullying behaviour is also someone with organisational authority, such as a manager or supervisor, then it becomes doubly difficult for a more junior colleague to confront them. Equally, reporting an incident of bullying behaviour to one's manager or supervisor can be a difficult thing to do for employees worried about how their complaint will be handled and whether making a complaint might back fire on them.

"In my work with people subject to bullying behaviour I coach clients in how to use self-preserving and self-protective behaviour at the time of an attack. Being able to identify what choices are available to them, even if they are limited, and exercising those choices wisely and effectively in the moment of being subject to bullying behaviour, will help to protect at least some aspect of a person's self-esteem and self-confidence, and can be enough to dissuade some workplace bullies from continuing to bully them.

"One of the most debilitating things for people subject to workplace bullying is having to cope with their own strong emotional reactions to being targeted at work. When a person can't confront the bully or can't easily tell their own superiors what is happening to them, they can end up expending much energy trying to cope with a growing internal 'pressure cooker' of anger, confusion and fear. However, people who are able to confront bullying behaviour at the time it occurs, or who do have supportive managers to whom they can turn, tend to feel less angry and more supported, feel less vulnerable and isolated, and so are less debilitated by an experience of workplace bullying."