Using goals to address workplace mistreatment

Lay Summary 

Workplace mistreatment, which ranges from relatively mild behaviours such as rudeness to more severe forms like harassment, is known to have negative ramifications for the victims at both work and home. This Research team is workingto find out if reducing the incidences of workplace mistreatment could be as simple as applying the same strategies used to achieve a goal.


Victims of workplace mistreatment tend to experience negative outcomes such as increased stress, and  high levels of stress can lead to costly outcomes such as reduced productivity, increased absenteeism and poor health, costing organizations millions, if not billions, of dollars around the world.


Dr. Warren says the missing piece is interventions.


The team is trying to find a solution to help people deal with workplace mistreatment if they’re a target of it, but also working on approaching it from the perspective of working with perpetrators of mistreatment. They hope to find out if a goal setting intervention can help reduce the incidences of people actually perpetrating mistreatment in the workplace.


The researchers hope to achieve this by applying the same intervention strategies one would apply to achieve a goal. Goal setting has been used in a variety of workplace contexts, says Dr. Warren. Essentially, individuals set themselves a challenging goal and are given the tools they need to attain it. 


If the researchers can design an intervention based on well-established goal setting theory as a way to resolve the interpersonal issues that often lead to mistreatment – it could be groundbreaking,.


The first step in the study is to bring together subject matter experts to help identify behaviours that targets and perpetrators of harassment may be able to use when workplace mistreatment occurs. The goal will be to try and use the behaviours to reduce the impact of mistreatment on individuals and perhaps even the incidences of it altogether.  The hope is that the research will develop a formula for interventions that can be broadly distributed to organizations.


Adapted from


Faculty of Business Administration
Social Sciences And Humanities Research Council Of Canada
Newfoundland and Labrador
Organizational behaviour
Human Resources
Start date 
1 Jan 2017