Bystander Stress: The Effect of Organizational Tolerance of Sexual Harrassment on Victim's Co-workers

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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1996 - 486 pages
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The effects of sexual harassment are becoming well-documented, with empirical evidence from military, academic, and public sector samples that victims of harassment experience negative job-related and psychological effects. In the present study, the effects of sexual harassment on victims' co-workers were studied, beginning with the development of a scale to measure the stress associated with an awareness of the harassment of one's co-workers, the Bystander Stress scale. Job-related and psychological outcomes were measured, including satisfaction with co-workers, satisfaction with supervision, work withdrawal, life satisfaction, mental health, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Women who experienced bystander stress experienced outcomes similar to the direct victims of harassment, reporting lower satisfaction with co-workers and supervision, lower life satisfaction, and worse mental health than women who did not experience bystander stress. Multiple group discriminant function analyses indicated that women who experienced both sexual harassment and bystander stress reported the worst job-related and psychological outcomes and could be separated from women who had experienced one of those stressors. An awareness of the harassment of co-workers also appears to have negative effects of victims' male co-workers. Men also experienced negative job-related outcomes due to backlash stress, defined as stress resulting from an uncertainty regarding changing norms for interacting with women in the workplace and measured by the Backlash Stress scale, also developed in this study. Scale analyses were performed to determine the reliability and validity of the Bystander Stress and Backlash Stress scales. Causal models were developed based on the results from the sample of 300 female and 209 male University employees. Implications for future research are discussed.

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