Panel says bullying by peers, subordinates also power harassment

A government panel studying measures to combat bullying at work recommended Monday that harassment by peers and subordinates be included in definitions of power harassment in the workplace.

In the government’s first proposal to define power harassment, often associated with abuse of power by bosses, the panel said in its report that power harassment could occur not only between people in different hierarchical positions but when there are gaps in expertise in specialized fields such as information technology.

The number of consultations related to bullying or harassment at work brought to the attention of the ministry’s regional labor departments across the country has increased from about 6,600 cases in fiscal 2002 to around 40,000 in fiscal 2010.

The report said there are six types of power harassment — physical attacks such as assault, mental attacks such as threats, ignoring or leaving someone out of the loop, burdening someone with excessive work, deliberately giving someone very little work to do and prying into someone’s personal affairs.

The working group determined there is a need to expand the definition of power harassment as it found from interviews with companies and the examination of litigation that there are a growing number of cases in which workers are continually ignored by peers and where younger employees well-versed in IT harass people in more senior positions who are less knowledgeable.