Workplace bullying on the rise, according to new study

Pin It

Most workers, even those who love their jobs, would probably say their job has caused them stress at some point. Throw in job insecurity, an increased workload and intensified pressure to perform, and stress levels can hit the roof. While some workers release stress in positive, healthy ways, others may take their frustrations out on their teammates, to the point where it becomes bullying.  

While workplace bullying isn’t a new phenomenon, it is becoming more prevalent. According to a new CareerBuilder study, 35 percent of workers said they have felt bullied at work, up from 27 percent last year.

Bullying can cause more harm than hurt feelings or bruised egos; 17 percent of the workers who said they’ve felt bullied also reported that they quit their jobs to escape the situation. Sixteen percent said they suffered health-related problems as a result.

The profile of a bully
The study, which included more than 3,800 workers nationwide, revealed that bullies can be found at all levels within a company. Of workers who felt bullied, most pointed to incidents with their bosses (48 percent) or co-workers (45 percent). Thirty-one percent have been picked on by customers and 26 percent by someone higher up in the company other than their boss. Fifty-four percent of those bullied said they were tormented by someone older, while 29 percent said the bully was younger. 

Words used as weapons
While bullying can sometimes be physical, words can also wound. Workers reported being bullied in the following ways:   

  • Falsely accused of mistakes — 42 percent
  • Ignored — 39 percent
  • Used different standards or policies toward me than other workers — 36 percent
  • Constantly criticized — 33 percent
  • Someone didn’t perform certain duties, which negatively impacted my work — 31 percent
  • Yelled at by boss in front of co-workers — 28 percent
  • Belittling comments were made about my work during meetings — 24 percent
  • Gossiped about — 26 percent
  • Someone stole credit for my work — 19 percent
  • Purposely excluded from projects or meetings — 18 percent
  • Picked on for personal attributes — 15 percent

Speaking up
It takes courage to confront a bully or report the aggressor to human resources, but speaking up is often the only way to stop it.

Bullied workers have handled the situation in different ways:

  • 49 percent of victims reported confronting the bully themselves.
  • 50 percent of those that confronted the bully said the bullying stopped; 11 percent said it got worse; 38 percent said the bullying didn’t change.
  • 27 percent reported it to their HR department.
  • 43 percent of those who reported it to HR said action was taken; 57 percent said nothing was done.

Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, says that while the definition of bullying can vary considerably, it is often tied to patterns of unfair treatment. “Bullying can have a significant impact on both individual and company performance. 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.”

Three tips for taking action
Here are three ways to handle a workplace bully situation:

  1. Keep a record. Write down all bullying incidents, documenting places, times, what happened and who was present.
  2. Try talking it out. Consider talking to the bully, providing examples of how you felt treated unfairly. Chances are the bully may not be aware that he is making you feel this way.
  3. Focus on resolution. When sharing examples with the bully or a company authority, center the discussions around how to make the working situation better or how things could be handled differently.
  1. Thanks for this article. It makes me feel less alone. I actually dealt with female bullying for the first time in my life at my last job. (I’m in my 40′s.) Most of the things on your list happened to me. I reported it to HR, and they were very helpful, but my boss just scape-goated me for everything. My boss told one lie after another to get herself out of trouble. Eventually, I got out, and I’m much better off now. But, I still can’t get over the feelings of helplessness, having other people “speaking for me”, and undermining me. My boss would also project things onto me. She would think that I was thinking something–and then talk about it openly as if it were true. I got out of there thanks to some help from the HR dept. I walked out–on a job that I had held for over seven years. (She was only my boss for a few of those years.)  It is now almost six months later, and I still can’t believe I had to deal with that in a professional situation.  (This happened in the law library of a large law firm that was putting incredible pressure on their employees to perform. The branch office that I worked in had an entirely female chain of command.)

  2. I can’t believe this article! I just had to have a conversation with my boss about this very topic last week. I even went to talk to her boss (who is boss over all of us in our department) to see if maybe I was overly sensitive or over-reacting. She sends me criticizing emails, yelled at me for taking a personal phone call in front of my co-workers (we work in cubicles and everyone can hear everything!) and made me feel humiliated and embarrassed. The big boss called her “High-strung” but it isn’t an excuse for treating people badly. The funny thing is we work for a county government agency and you would think they would abide by the federal laws governing workplace treatment of employees. I was told that if the Policy & Procedures manual for our department didn’t address it, she didn’t have to abide by anything else. She has a lot to learn. My only hope is that she retires in the next 5 years! I hope I can last that long. Thanks for putting a name to what she has been doing to me and other employees these past few years. Thank you for the article. It was great!
    P.S. Nice to know it was written by someone from Wisconsin where I work. There’s plenty of research material in south central Wisconsin!  Go Bucky!!

  3. Article doesn’t mention how long a person has to file charges when faced with losing their job because of this? Is there a statue of limitations? Where do you go to find the answers for each state?

  4. My wife from time to time will discuss issues with me about fellow coworkers being pushed around as well as herself. My advice to my wife is report it. If nothing happens from this and the proof is rock solid take it to the next level. Don’t be afraid to step on toes. Another issue my wife deals with is not knowing how to stick up for herself. She has an issue of being afraid I guess of making personnel mad. Would I put up with it day to day… hell no! I think this is a problem with most females in general, no disrespect intended. You have to learn to defend yourselves and not be pushed around daily. Knowledge is power and the key, if you know the rules and policies regarding the company you work for then use them to eliminate the problem.

  5. I was let go for “reduction in staffing”. But after bullied, lied about, etc by an LPN and the manager. I am the RN employed there 38 years. Numerous complaints about this LPN by staff and families…she was just talked to…broke the law by passing herself off as an RN on the phone, and refused to care for a young lady with birth defects, which is against the law!!! Told manager’s boss, HR 2nd in command, and actual VP of nursing  that LPN is a bully, etc, and everything she had done, and the manager….just blank looks. Told her it was sad, they could not admit they made a mistake. 38 years, of which 18 was NICU/PICU with critically ill kids, 18 years with a specialty clinic that I developed. Left that area, as could not do it any longer, and for health reasons. Then 3 years later, reduction of staffing, as that manager was trying to impress and make her dept the most efficient…went from 3 down to one to do patient care…and huge increase in patient dissatisfaction!! It is pathetic when people can get away with this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>