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Workplace Harassment Declining, but Remains Pervasive: Poll

Posted on June 19, 2014

Declines “hardly cause for celebration” says Queen’s School of Business Expert

KINGSTON, ON, June 16, 2014 –  The percentage of Canadians that have witnessed or experienced harassment in the workplace has noticeably declined in the last two years, according to a recent Leger Marketing poll commissioned by Queen’s School of Business.

According to the 2014 study, which mirrors a similar poll in 2012, 23 per cent of Canadians say they have personally experienced workplace harassment in their own life, down from 28 per cent in 2012.  Similarly, the percentage of Canadians who say they have witnessed workplace harassment has dropped to 25 per cent, down from 33 per cent in 2012.  Four per cent of Canadians report that they are currently experiencing workplace harassment, or have in the last year, which is virtually unchanged from 2012.

The study also reveals that while more men say they have witnessed workplace harassment than women (30 per cent versus 20 per cent), the opposite is the case when it comes to personally experiencing it in their own work life.  Roughly one in three females (31 percent) has or is currently experiencing workplace harassment versus 22 per cent of males.

“It’s encouraging that incidents of workplace harassment appear to be declining. It suggests that recent legislation and increased education against workplace harassment in Canada is helping. However, the fact that roughly one out of four people still admit to experiencing it personally is hardly cause for a celebration,” says Jana Raver, Associate Professor at Queen’s School of Business. “Society has made great strides in virtually eliminating many traditional job-related risks, and now we must apply the same commitment to eradicating workplace harassment, which is often less obvious.”  

Other survey results include:

•    Among the various categories of educational background, university-educated employees are the most likely to report that they have experienced or are currently experiencing workplace harassment (29 per cent), compared to those who have a high school education or less (23 per cent).
•    The percentage of Canadians reporting a male harasser has declined from 50 per cent in 2012 to 42 per cent in 2014, while the percentage of Canadians reporting female harassers has remained the same at 23 per cent.  Interestingly, the percentage of Canadians who say they have witnessed workplace harassment inflicted by both males and females has jumped to 35 per cent from 27 per cent two years ago.

“While Hollywood may stereotype workplace harassers as males, the survey reveals that an increasing percentage of Canadians now report witnessing it from both genders,” says Raver.  
While harassment can take many different forms, The Occupational Health and Safety Act in Ontario defines it as “engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.” It may include bullying, intimidating or offensive communications, isolation, hostile non-verbal displays, or sharing offensive pictures or materials. June 15 marked the four-year anniversary of the enforcing legislation against workplace harassment in Ontario.


As an expert in organizational behaviour, Dr. Raver can comment on the following points:
•    The nature of harassment in today’s workplace
•    How to recognize the signs of harassment
•    Types of harassment among same-gendered colleagues vs. opposite gender colleagues, and differences in bullying motivations and tactics
•    How to eliminate environments that breed workplace harassment

About Queen's School of Business
Queen’s School of Business is one of the world’s premier business schools—renowned for exceptional programs, outstanding faculty and research, and the quality of its graduates. Canadian executives regard Queen’s as Canada’s most innovative business school, offering students academic excellence and a superior overall experience. Queen’s School of Business—where Canada’s first Commerce program was launched in 1919—is located at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. The School also delivers programs at locations across Canada, as well in the U.S., the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and China.

About the survey
The survey was completed online from April 21st to April 24th, 2014 using Leger’s online panel, LegerWeb, with a sample of 1501 Canadians.  A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

To arrange an interview or obtain additional information please contact:

Amber Wallace
Queen's School of Business