New research claims that "corporate bullying" such as excessive
monitoring is more damaging than intimidation by other members of staff.
A study by a London University professor has found that employees are more likely
to suffer from an organisation’s institutionalised practices than from bullying
"Like the McPherson report on racism in the Met, this research shows
that by focusing solely on the bad apple in the barrel, institutionalised
practices can continue unchallenged," said organisational psychologist Dr
"Companies can claim to have taken action because they have produced
anti-bullying policies. In reality this means institutionalised bullying such
as excessive monitoring continues unchecked."
The research, which was presented at the British Academy of Management
annual conference last week, challenges the belief that workplace bullying is
perpetrated by a few individuals.
It reveals that employees feel their companies create policies and
procedures that are in themselves bullying.
Most employees feel unable to speak out even through their unions for fear
of reprisals which might damage their careers, Dr Liefooghe claims.
The study also shows staff think they are bullied by organisational demands
to cut costs while striving to achieve ever-increasing targets.
Dr Liefooghe, said, "I’m not denying that interpersonal bullying does
happen at work but institutionalised bullying is much more insidious and
difficult to tackle.
"Focusing on individuals lets companies off the hook. Whether they will
be prepared to do anything about it is a different question. As one director
said to me, ‘If that is what is they [the employees] call bullying, perhaps we
should do more of it’."
Dr Liefooghe talked to more than 500 employees working in the financial
services, telecoms, new media and catering sectors about their personal
experiences of bullying in the workplace.
By Ben Willmott