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Bullying of Lesbians & Bisexuals in the Workplace

Bullying of lesbians and bisexuals in the workplace is common, and to date has not been well addressed by organizational psychology and/or human resources. Indigo Anchor’s Tracy Porter Ph.D. recently executed a study with Patricia Meglich, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR and Nancy E. Day, Ph.D. which is relevant to the LGBTQ community's challenges in the workplace. Tracy presented this paper at IAM 2019 (Irish Academy of Management’s annual conference) last month and won for “Best Paper.” We’ve included the abstract for the paper below and will soon be able to offer the entire paper as a download.

Photo by  Luis Galvez  on  Unsplash

Photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash


Does Sexual Orientation of Bullying Target Influence Bystander Response?


Aim/research question: The Bystander Intervention Model (BIM) is applied to explore how bystanders to workplace bullying assess situations and choose responses, and specifically if the target’s sexual orientation influences these decisions. We investigate how attitudes of homophobia and amnestic heterosexism (AH) affect these responses.

Design/methodology/approach: Vignettes of workplace mistreatment against lesbian, female bisexuals, or female heterosexual targets were randomly presented to respondents, who were asked to assess the degree of mistreatment, their feelings of personal responsibility, and their anticipated responses. Analysis of covariance was used.

Findings: Regardless of levels of homophobia or AH, respondents report less active intervention if the target is lesbian. Respondents do not distinguish between conditions in clarity or severity of mistreatment. However, those higher in homophobia and AH feel less personal responsibility and are less likely to intervene when the target is lesbian.

Research limitations/implications: The sexual orientation of targets affects how bystanders will respond; bystander attitudes toward sexual orientation affect these responses.

Practical implications: We offer organizational leaders insight into challenges some employees face and a cursory understanding of barriers which might inhibit an inclusive culture.

Social implications: Sexual minority workers who are targets of bullying may experience differential support from coworkers who are bystanders; training aimed at minimizing anti-gay attitudes may encourage more active intervention.

Originality/value: This is the first time the BIM has been applied to an adult workplace situation, specifically in studying sexual minority workers. We demonstrate factors that predict when bystanders may intervene in a bullying situation involving sexual minority females.

Keywords: sexual orientation, lesbian, workplace bullying, bystander, intervention

For questions and/or comments on this subject, feel free to contact us.