Th-OR-S33-1 - Employee Silence And Workplace Bullying: Correlates And Predictors Of Non-Reporting

Bullying and harassment
Oral Presentation
Part of:
15 minutes
Conflict in organizations
Bullying and harassment
Employee Silence and Workplace Bullying: Correlates and Predictors of Non-Reporting
K. Harlos 1,*, G. O'Farrell 1, E. Polcyn Sailer 2, W. Josephson 1, S. Tremblay 3, P. Tan 2, L. Axelrod 4
1University of Winnipeg, 2Government of Manitoba, 3Manitoba Nurses Union, Winnipeg, 4The Neutral Zone, Vancouver, Canada
Content: Purpose
We studied employee silence, originally defined as withheld evaluations (positive and negative) of work circumstances to persons able to effect change (Pinder & Harlos, 2001). Drawing on employee silence theory, we examined self-labelled targets and observers of workplace bullying to identify correlates and predictors of silence, operationalized as non-reporting of bullying to authorities for remedy. We surveyed 15,370 employees in a Canadian public sector organization and hypothesized that personal (e.g., negative affect, gender) and situational (e.g., bullying severity, hierarchical power) factors would predict silence. For predictive comparison, we created a dichotomous and a continuous measure of silence consistent with its conceptualization as active behavior.
From 5,558 completed surveys, we classified employees as targets only (n=227), observers only (n=854), and both targets/observers (n=864) from measures of negative acts and bullying exposure consistent with a definition provided.  
Mean comparison and regression analyses suggest that targets’ silence is predicted more by personal than situational factors whereas observers’ silence is predicted more by situational than personal factors. The continuous measure of silence held little predictive value across targets and observers.
Cross-sectional, self-report data limit strengths of this large sample of traditionally hard-to-access employees.  
Research/Practical Implications
Results offer insight into silent targets and observers of workplace bullying, affirming that silence in negative contexts is an active condition preventing remedy. Decision-makers will benefit from learning about mistreated employees who forgo remedial reporting.  
This study answers the call for better understanding of employee silence, including antecedents and attendant characteristics (Harlos, 2016).  


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