More workers feeling bullied, study finds

Oct 18, 2012

More workers feeling bullied, study findsAn online survey of almost 4,000 full-time U.S. workers conducted earlier this year reports an increase in bullying compared to a similar survey conducted a year earlier.

This year, 35% of respondents said they have felt bullied at work, up from 27% last year. Sixteen percent of these workers reported they suffered health-related problems as a result of bullying, and 17% decided to quit their jobs to escape the situation.

Among respondents who reported being bullied, nearly half didn't confront the bullies, and most incidents went unreported. Of those who confronted the bully, 50% said the bullying stopped, 11% said it got worse, and 38% said the bullying didn't change at all.

Twenty-seven percent of workers who felt bullied reported it to their Human Resources department. Of these workers, 43% reported that action was taken while 57% said nothing was done.

Who’s bullying

Most workers who reported bullying pointed to their bosses (48%) or coworkers (45%), while 31% also attributed bullying to customers, and 26% to someone more senior than their boss.

More than half (54%) said the bully was older than they were; 29%, younger.

Weapons bullies used

The most common form of reported bullying was being blamed for mistakes they didn't make followed by not being acknowledged and the use of double standards. The full list includes:

  • falsely accused of mistakes - 42%
  • ignored - 39%
  • used different standards/policies toward me than other workers - 36%
  • constantly criticized - 33%
  • someone didn't perform certain duties, which negatively affected my work - 31%
  • yelled at by boss in front of coworkers - 28%
  • belittling comments made about my work during meetings - 24%
  • gossiped about - 26%
  • someone stole credit for my work - 19%
  • purposely excluded from projects or meetings - 18%
  • picked on for personal attributes - 15%

The survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder, an international online job recruitment site. "How workers define bullying can vary considerably," says Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder's vice president of Human Resources, "but it is often tied to patterns of unfair treatment. Bullying can have a significant impact on both individual and company performance," warns Haefner.

NOTE: Ontario's Ministry of Labour is conducting a violence and harassment blitz of manufacturing and service sector firms that includes. See "Violence and harassment blitz: ensure you’re in compliance," elsewhere in this issue.

How WSPS can help

WSPS has an extensive selection of resources that can help your workplace protect workers from violence and harassment, including domestic violence in the workplace. Among the resources:

  • classroom and on-site training
  • e-courses, including such hazard-specific topics as difficulty or hostile customers, hostage situations, and robbery
  • downloadable forms:
    • employee risk assessment questionnaire
    • workplace hazards inspection form
  • Occupational Health and Safety Council of Ontario (OHSCO)'s downloadable Workplace Violence Prevention Series, including sample policies and programs, and implementation tools
  • Related sessions at upcoming Partners in Prevention conferences and trade shows.

WSPS consultants can also help your workplace in a number of ways, such as

  • conducting violence-related hazard assessments
  • identifying and facilitating solutions
  • developing customized training
  • integrating violence and harassment prevention and control into organizational management practices.