I've gotten a few e-mails from people who want advice on how to deal with bullies in the workplace. The word "bully" initially brings to mind someone who steals your lunch money. But the workplace bully is someone who can make your life a nightmare because he or she exercises a type of harassment that isn't addressed by current laws.
And the issue is prominent: Zogby International conducted 7,740 online interviews of a panel that is representative of the adult population of the United States. This is the largest national scientific survey of the bullying phenomenon in the United States to date. The survey found that:
37% of American workers (an estimated 54 million people) have been bullied at work. It affects about half (49%) of American workers (which is 71.5 million workers) when witnesses are included. Here are some of the other key findings:
Bullying is four times more prevalent than illegal forms of "harassment."
American employers can and do ignore bullying. In 62% of the cases, when made aware of bullying, employers worsen the problem or simply do nothing, despite losing an estimated 21-28 million workers because of it.
The Workplace Bullying Institute is attempting to effect anti-bullying state laws. Thirteen states have introduced the WBI Healthy Workplace Bill since 2003.
- Most bullies are bosses — the stereotype is real. 72% of bullies are bosses. 55% of those bullied are rank-and-file workers.
- Bullying most strongly affects women. Women are targeted by bullies more frequently (in 57% of cases), especially by other women (in 71% of cases).
- Bullying is a public health hazard. For 45% of bullied targets, stress affects their health. 33% suffer for more than one year.
- Bullied individuals are not "sue crazy" — many fail to even complain. Only 3% of bullied targets file lawsuits. 40% never complain.
- Perpetrators suffer little. Targets have to stop the vast majority of bullying (77%) by losing their jobs, despite being the ones harmed.
In an upcoming blog, I will address what actions you can take if you are being bullied at work.
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.