Gender and the Dysfunctional Workplace

Gender and the Dysfunctional Workplace

New Horizons in Management series

Edited by Suzy Fox and Terri R. Lituchy

Dysfunction in the workplace, like a bully culture, affects women and men differently. This book represents a broad spectrum of disciplines including law, management, communications, human resource management and industrial/organizational psychology and offers integrative, cross-disciplinary inquiries into the many roles gender plays in organizational dysfunction. The authors provoke new questions and new streams of research, with the ultimate goal of contributing to healthier workplaces for men and women alike.

Chapter 5: Workplace Bullying and Gender: It’s Complicated

Loraleigh Keashly

Subjects: business and management, diversity and management, gender and management, human resource management, organisational behaviour


Loraleigh Keashly While the literature on the various forms of workplace mistreatment is rich and growing, it is surprising how little attention has been paid to the role of gender (Magley et al., 2010). Often gender is utilized as a control variable, implicitly acknowledging that it may in some way account for variability in the criteria of interest but rarely delving into what that connection might be. This question of whether and how gender connects to workplace bullying is the focus of this chapter. There are two perspectives on this question: (1) bullying is gender-blind or more broadly status-blind (Yamada, 2000; Pearson et al., 2005) and (2) bullying is inherently gendered (Lee, 2002; Simpson and Cohen, 2004). These perspectives reflect different conceptualizations of gender. The gender-blind argument in essence considers gender as a demographic variable, that is, an individual difference variable as in “a gender.” The gendered perspective conceives of gender as a social status that is constructed and defined in interactions with others; thus the phrase “doing gender.” Proponents of the gender-blind perspective make the case by noting the absence of gendered content of bullying behaviors, distinguishing them from sexual harassment behaviors. Indeed, some definitions of bullying make the point of explicitly excluding sexual and racial content (see Keashly and Jagatic, 2010 for a select review). This perspective gains support from research that has consistently documented that “bullying” behaviors and behaviors characterized as sexual harassment are empirically distinguishable (i.e., load on different factors; e.g., Rospenda and Richman, 2004; Lim...

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