Real-life Don Drapers not so funny

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Mad Men main man Don Draper returned heroically to the small screen on Sunday. But while his behaviour towards women is entertaining on TV, real-life harassment is affecting more than half the work force, and it’s often not entertaining at all.

Unlike drinking and smoking, workplace harassment has not been relegated to the history books, according to a Queen’s School of Business survey.

“While we no longer smoke and drink in the office like the characters from Mad Men, Don Draper’s style of workplace harassment is still alive and well in 2012,” says Dr Jana Raver, associate professor at Queen’s School of Business. 

The survey found 57% of working Canadians have experienced or witnessed workplace harassment – and the culprits are not always men.

Men are responsible for about half the harassment, but women report that 30% of the harassment they were exposed to came from women.

“Today’s workplace bully can be male or female, but while men tend to bully both women and men equally, female bullies tend to disproportionately choose other female colleagues as targets,” says Raver. “And contrary to stereotypes of bullies preying on the weak for power, most targets of bullying in the office — regardless of gender — tend to be the average and above-average performers.”

Women were more likely to be victims of bullying: 33% reported they had personally experienced harassment, compared with 26% of men.

Raver, an expert in organizational behaviour, says inappropriate ‘love taps’ and coerced office affairs, like those portrayed on the popular show, aren’t the only acts constituting today’s harassment behaviours; harassment can take a variety of insidious forms that are sometimes difficult to identify.

“Many offenders rationalize their actions as harmless, but this isn’t a TV show that ends in 60 minutes — it’s real life, and a single incident of harassment can cause long-lasting suffering for the victim,” she said.

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