Workplace Bullying On the Rise!

Physical bullying at school, it happens at work as well.
Physical bullying at school, as depicted in the film Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bullying is becoming a growing problem in schools and playgrounds. Bullying has also become a serious problem on the job, according to employees.

A recent study by employment website CareerBuilder found that in 2012, more workers met workplace bullies.  One-third of workers—35 percent— said they have felt bullied at work; this number is up from 27 percent last year.

The increasing problem of bullying is causing increasing health problems and lost productivity by intimidation in the victims.

Sixteen percent of workers said they suffered health-related complications as a result of bullying, with 17 percent saying bullying was so intense they decided to quit their jobs.

The CareerBuilder survey, conducted online by Harris Interactive from May to June 2012, included more than 3,800 workers nationwide. They also found that nearly half of workers do not face their bullies, and most workplace bullying incidents goes unreported.

Who are the people most likely to bully?

  • Most say it was an incident with an immediate supervisor (48 percent) or co-worker (45 percent).
  • Customer interactions accounted for 31 percent of bullying incidents.
  • One-quarter—26 percent—said the bullying was by a higher up in the organization who was not their immediate supervisor.

(Individual respondents reported specific situations separately, so numbers add up to more than 100 percent.)

Age is a also factor in bullying, with 54 percent reporting the bully was older than the target; only 29 percent said the bully was younger.

Forms of Workplace Bullying:

The most frequent bullying at work is blame for mistakes the victim did not make, followed by no acknowledgement for work and the use of double standards.

  • Falsely accused of errors – 42 percent
  • Ignored – 39 percent
  • Used different standards/policies toward me than other workers – 36 percent
  • Repetitively criticized – 33 percent
  • Someone did not do certain duties, negatively impacting my work – 31 percent
  • Shouted at by boss in front of co-workers – 28 percent
  • Derisive comments made about my work during meetings – 24 percent
  • Focus of gossip – 26 percent
  • Someone stealing credit for the victim’s work – 19 percent
  • Purposely excluded from projects/meetings – 18 percent
  • Picked on for personal qualities – 15 percent

In a press release from CareerBuilder, Vice President of Human Resources Rosemary Haefner identified some of the patterns found in workplace bullying.

“How workers define bullying can vary considerably,” Haefner said, “but it is often tied to patterns of unfair treatment.”

“Bullying can have a significant impact on both individual and company performance,” Haefner added. “It’s important to cite specific incidents when addressing the situation with the bully or a company authority and keep focused on finding a resolution.”

How to Stand Up to a Bully at Work:

Unlike a schoolyard bully, it is not wise to stand up to a workplace bully.

According to the survey, about half (49 percent) of victims reported confronting the bully themselves, while 51 percent did not. Of those who confronted the workplace bully, 50 percent said the bullying stopped. Regrettably, 11 percent said the situation got worse, and 38 percent said there was no change in the situation.

Victims of workplace bullying are recommended to follow these three steps:

  1. Keep a record of all episodes of bullying; document places, times, events and who was present.
  2. Consider communicating to the bully, providing examples of how you felt treated unfairly. Chances are the bully is not aware that he/she is making you feel this way.
  3. Always focus on resolution. When sharing examples with the bully or a business authority, center the discussions on how to improve the working environment or how things could be handled differently.

Bullying and Human Resources:

Unfortunately, in dealing with bullying Human Resources departments are not effective and lack follow through. Only 27 percent of workers who felt bullied reported it to their Human Resources department. Of those who reported, 43 percent said HR took further steps.

More than half—57 percent—said HR took no action to resolve the situation.


With an increased emphasis on bullying in schools and playgrounds, more attention is on bullying in society. This could lead to legal liabilities for employers that are unable—or unwilling—to address this increasing problem.

Published by @philammann

Put. That coffee. Down. Writer/editor/whatever it takes. @margaretj13 is my (much) better half. Website: Email: Twitter: @PhilAmmann

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