Survey: Bullies Are Overtaking The Workplace

work bullyBy Debra Auerbach

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 that 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.

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 that 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 who 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.

Para Mullan on Bullying in the Workplace

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