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Better Understanding of Office Bullying

“Workplace bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators,” according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, “It is abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating or intimidating.”

In the 2014 Workplace Bullying Survey 27% of respondents, nationwide, reported suffering abusive treatment at work, another 21% report witnessing it and 72% say they are aware that office bullying occurs. 7% reported they are currently being bullied in the workplace.

But who does the bullying, who are their targets and what gets done about it aren’t widely known. The 2014 Workplace Bullying Survey results provide the following statistics.

When it comes to who does the office bullying, gender plays a significant role:

  • Men do 69% of workplace bullying.
  • They victimize women 57% of the time.
  • When women bully (31%) they target other women 68% of the time.
  • 60% of all office bullying targets are women.

Office bullying often has more than one perpetrator; 23% of office bullying cases had more than one perpetrator.

Non-white workers are more likely to be victims of office bullying:

  • 32.5% of Hispanic workers experienced office bullying.
  • 33% of African Americans workers experienced office bullying.
  • 33.3% of Asian workers experienced office bullying.
  • 24.1% of White Americans experienced office bullying.

Coworkers with a higher ranking are more likely to bully than those “beneath” them:

  • 56% of perpetrators held a higher rank than their victims.
  • 33% are peers who work at the same level as their targets.
  • 11% of office bullying is committed by someone working at a lower rank than their victims.
  • 14% of office bullying is perpetrated by a combination of coworkers working in varying ranks.

Employers often handle the situation poorly:

  • 25% deny that office bullying occurred.
  • 16% discount the seriousness of an incident.
  • 15% rationalize the behavior as harmless.
  • 11% defend the bully rather than the victim.
  • 5% actually encourage the behavior.

Less than 30% of employers effectively deal with office bullying:

  • 12% eliminate office bullying by creating and enforcing anti-bullying policies.
  • 10% acknowledge the affected workers.
  • 6% enforce a zero-tolerance policy.

Often, the victims of office bullying pay the price to end the office bullying:

  • 29% of the time the target quit their job to escape the office bullying.
  • 19% of the time the target was forced out of their job.
  • 13% of the time the target was transferred.
  • 13% of the time the target was fired.

Perpetrators of office bullying pay the price less often:

  • 11% of workplace bullies are punished.
  • 10% of workplace bullies are fired.
  • 5% of workplace bullies quit their job.

“Therefore, once a person is targeted for bullying – a choice made by the perpetrator(s) – that person has a 6 out of 10 chance of losing her or his livelihood,” states the WBI website.

Victims aren’t the only ones to pay a steep price for office bullying, it costs the organization a good bit too:

  • The cost of replacing and training new staff members because of high turnover rates.
  • Employees become distracted and less productive as they cope with office bullying situations.
  • Legal expenses.
  • Bad company reputation that deters good employees, vendors and customers.

Whether you’re dealing with an office bullying situation now, or want to establish and enforce an effective zero tolerance policy to prevent future workplace bullying, Huffmaster, the workplace violence prevention experts, can help.

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Mike Saad, CPP

Senior Director Consulting Services at Huffmaster Crisis Response, LLC
Michael Saad is Senior Director of Consulting Services, Huffmaster Crisis Response, LLC. He is responsible for the security consulting line of business for the company. In that capacity he manages security program evaluation, corporate policy and procedure development, federal security compliance initiatives, corporate investigations, security threat and vulnerability analysis, and business risk management.
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