Master of Arts
An alarming rate of workplace violence/harassment is observed each year, with negative outcomes that affect the organization (i.e., financial loss) and those directly involved (i.e., job loss, financial strain, fear of being blamed, being labeled a ‘troublemaker’). The literature indicates that, for many victim-survivors, there is little hope for positive outcomes following a disclosure of workplace violence/harassment. In fact, some studies show that negative reactions to disclosure can compound and intensify the impact of violence/harassment on psychological functioning. However, minimal research has been devoted to the experiences of victim-survivors regarding the outcomes of a disclosure. Utilizing virtual semi-structured interviews, the present study qualitatively examined the experiences of 15 victim-survivors following a disclosure of workplace violence/harassment. Thematic analysis of these interviews identified eight ways that workplaces and work colleagues could react to participants’ disclosures that led to victim-survivors feeling worse. Themes included: (a) lack of accountability, (b) lack of commitment to justice, (c) feeling blamed or invalidated, (d) damaging expectations, (e) inconsistency in responses, (f) deteriorating conditions and relationships, and (g) minimization of harmful effects. These themes offer insight into the lived experiences of victim-survivors who have disclosed workplace violence/harassment and suggest that there is much work needed to be done to positively change these outcomes and experiences. This work could motivate future studies investigating disclosures and the types of responses that victim-survivors receive in various settings.
Summary for Lay Audience
Violence and harassment in the workplace cause harm to the workers, employers, organizations and communities that host them. There are numerous studies that illustrate these effects, such as financial strain, emotional harm, decreased psychological functioning, and fear of being blamed or fired. This fear has led victims of workplace violence or harassment to feel as though there is little hope for positive outcomes or reactions from others if they were to come forward. There is also significant research that demonstrates the importance of the responses that victims receive when they disclose their victimization. Negative reactions to disclosure of victimization (i.e., blaming, disbelief, minimizing the experience) can worsen the effects of the violence/harassment on that individual. However, there is limited research that investigates disclosure in the workplace context, and that seeks to understand the experience of the disclosure for those victim-survivors. The current study explored the experience of disclosure by interviewing victim-survivors of workplace violence or harassment; this enabled the researchers to examine the themes that arose from their experiences, and what can be done in order to better support workers in the future. This study found several examples of responding to the victim’s disclosure in a way that led them to feel worse. Some of these responses included an overall sense that the organization was unwilling to support the victim-survivor and commit to ensuring that they felt the issue was resolved. Other responses led the participants to feel blamed, invalidated, silenced, disbelieved, or that their situation continued to deteriorate as they continued to pursue a resolution. While this study provides a description of the experience of disclosing workplace violence, further exploration of disclosure and the types of responses they receive is required in order to understand both harmful and supportive reactions.
Auger, Jillian, "Exploring the Experience of Disclosing in the Workplace" (2023). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 9368.
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