Witnessing the harassment or uncivil treatment of women at work is bad not only for female employees, but for the productivity of the whole organisation.
That’s according to Kathi Miner-Rubino and Lilia Cortina in America, who surveyed 871 female and 831 male university employees, including academic and support staff.
Male and female employees who said they had witnessed either the sexual harassment of female staff, or uncivil, rude or condescending behaviour towards them, tended to report lower psychological well-being and job satisfaction. In turn, lower psychological well-being was associated with greater burn out and increased thoughts about quitting.
Moreover, employees of both sexes who perceived the university to be unresponsive to sexual harassment complaints, tended to report more burnout and less commitment to the university.
Crucially, while these negative effects were not large, they were associated purely with observing the mistreatment of others, not with being a victim of mistreatment oneself – the researchers took account of that (for participants of both sexes) in their statistical analysis.
However, longitudinal research is needed to confirm the direction of causality in the observed associations. It's possible, for example, that misogynistic treatment is more likely to occur when staff have poor psychological well-being and less job satisfaction.
The researchers surmised the negative effects of witnessing misogyny at work could be caused by the feeling that one is working for an unjust organisation, and by feelings of empathy or fear. “This underscores the need for broad, proactive organisational interventions to manage workplace misogyny,” they concluded.
Miner-Rubino, K. & Cortina, L.M. (2007). Beyond targets: Consequences of vicarious exposure to misogyny at work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 1254-1269.
Image credit: Michael R
Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.