Workplace Bullying

by Anja Uitdehaag

Let’s have a look at some – shocking! – statistics:

According to a 2010 online poll by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), a Washington state think Tank, workplace bullying

  • affects more than 1/3 of employees;
  • 56% of employees reported that bullying came from bosses;
  • 33% said bullying came from coworkers;
  • 11% said bullying came from the bottom up, employees to their superiors;
  • 69% of bullies are male, and 57% of the time they have female targets;
  • 31% of bullies are female, and 68% of the time they have female targets;
  • Early results from an online WBI survey revealed 87% of employers reacted by denying, defending, discounting or rationalizing the abuse.

As the above statistics show, workplace bullying is happening everywhere.

Women and minorities are overwhelmingly more often the targets of workplace bullying.

What is it?

Workplace bullying is any physical or mental intimidation by a person or group of people in the workplace. This includes threatening, intimidating, humiliating, work sabotage, or verbal abuse.

Some concrete examples are:

  • making fun of you or your work;
  • Sexual harassment;
  • Excluding you from workplace activities;
  • Setting you up to fail;
  • Withholding important info; etc., etc.

It is obvious that workplace bullying has a negative impact on the work environment. It leads to significantly higher rates of sickness absence, high employee turnover and low workforce morale.

The costs to the employer can be huge.

Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace, which means one that’s free of bullying and intimidation.

In their book, “The Bully Free Workplace”, Gary and Ruth Namie, outline the steps that Workplace Leaders and Managers need to take to stop bullying.

  • Step 1: Recognize Bullying: While some bullying occurs in the open, much bullying happens behind closed doors, so leaders need to assess the incidence of bullying in their workplaces.
  • Step 2: Intervene: Successful intervention is difficult and takes courage on the part of the leader, but strategies such as telling the parties to “work it out” or telling the victim to “tough it out,” don’t work.
  • Step 3: Stop Rumors: Leaders need to be tapped into the workplace grapevine to be aware of negative and unfair rumors, and put a stop to them.
  • Step 4: Hold Leaders and Organizations Accountable: In order to make a true commitment to stopping workplace bullying and protecting targets, organizations need to create anti-bullying policies and leaders need to enforce them.

Workplace bullying is an unfortunate fact of life, but it isn’t something we should just accept.

We all should make sure we are not threatening or intimidating others. If you see someone in the workplace being bullied, you have the responsibility to try to stop it.

Nobody deserves to feel uncomfortable at work!


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