Psychological harassment in the workplace affects approximately 15% of employees, according to a meta-analysis conducted in several countries1. It has very harmful consequences not only for the victims, but also for the organizations in which it occurs.

What are the main factors that promote—or, on the contrary, prevent—this type of negative behavior in the workplace? This is what Sarah-Geneviève Trépanier, a researcher in the School of Management at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, wanted to find out. To do so, she questioned nearly 1,200 employees.

The results show that several psychosocial aspects related to the organization of work represent stress factors that favour the appearance and persistence of psychological harassment behaviours. This is the case, for example, when the workload is very high, or if the roles and responsibilities of the members of the organization are poorly defined or overlap.

Highly authoritarian management styles that put the needs of the organization ahead of the well-being of its members are also conducive to the emergence of psychological harassment.

Protective elements can, however, mitigate the effect of these stressors, particularly when members of the organization have access to social support and their efforts are recognized and appreciated (recognition).

The results also show that psychological harassment increases employees’ likelihood of leaving their jobs. In this time of labour shortages, it is therefore important for organizations to understand the conditions that lead to psychological harassment and to implement actions aimed at cultivating a healthy work climate.

1 Nielsen, M. B., Matthiesen, S. B., & Einarsen, S. (2010). The impact of methodological moderators on prevalence rates of workplace bullying. A meta-analysis. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 83(4), 955-979.