Study by UNT professor focusing on effects of workplace bullying

Study by UNT professor focusing on effects of workplace bullying

Study by UNT professor focusing on effects of workplace bullying
June 22
12:44 2017

A UNT adjunct professor’s research on how workplace bullying impacts bystanders was completed this May.

The research was part of Michele Medina’s doctoral dissertation for the department of management. Medina found that individuals who witnessed a bullying incident believed they would be treated unfairly by coworkers. Medina defined bullying as unwanted behaviors that happen frequently.

“It’s not just the bully and the victim, there is also someone who sees it,” Medina said.

She mentioned witnesses are sometimes called secondary victims, because they identify with the individual being bullied.

“They are not directly abused, but they still have the repercussions [and] the health issues that some victims do,” Medina said.

Medina conducted an experiment last October and November in the Business Leadership Building’s behavioral lab. Participants included 315 upper-level business students.

They were asked to participate in a demographical survey before scheduling a time in the lab. Once in the lab, students watched a series of training videos that depicted a neutral interaction and a bullying interaction between co-workers.

Participants answered questions after watching the video and completed a survey a week later to see how much they remembered.

“You can only reserve [the lab] for two weeks at a time,” Medina said. “Because I needed so many people to come in and complete it to make sure I get a strong enough statistical power, I was there for 12 hours a day. Sometimes it was 14 hours.”

Medina always found the issue interesting and knew family members who experienced workplace bullying. She thought the subject would keep her interest for the five years she worked on the dissertation.

“I had friends who had seen it at their workplace and that was where it started,” Medina said. “One of my family members was being bullied by their boss and it took off from there.”

She looked at different literature on the subject and realized there wasn’t much information on the bystanders.

“Most of the studies looked at either the bully or the victim and they neglected to focus on the bystander, which is where I brought my dissertation,” Medina said.

Deja Terry, a UNT converged broadcast media junior, experienced bullying from her manager when she worked at Chick-fil-A for two years. Terry said the bullying resulted in an unfair working environment and obstacles to promotion.

“People saw it, but I was kind of on my own,” Terry said. “They didn’t want to be on [the manager’s] bad side by trying to stick up for me or saying something.”

Erik Trevino is the grounds manager at UNT. He hasn’t encountered any significant bullying situations among his staff since he started the job in October 2016, saying his goal is to create a safe place for his staff to work.

“Workplace bullying has a negative impact on these goals and it won’t be tolerated,” Trevino said. “As long as I continue to build a welcoming, professional environment for our team, hopefully we won’t have any issues with bullying because bullying situations will deter us from being able to do our job here.”

Medina hopes that workplaces will have more outlets so bystanders can report bullying incidents. She said bullying is often seen but rarely reported, and thinks an anonymous tip line would help.

Medina’s tenure at UNT ends in July and she will be an assistant professor at Middle Tennessee State University in the fall.

Featured Image: Adjunct Professor and Doctoral Student Michele Medina has just completed research in May as part of her dissertation over bullying in the workplace. Though Medina spoke of a need for more research, she concluded that those who witness bullying at work tend to identify with the victim. Katie Jenkins

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Devin Rardin

Devin Rardin

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