Study Finds 1 in 3 Workers Deals With Bullying at Their Jobs

Most workplaces strive to be professional environments staffed with mature adults. However, just as Incubus once sang, “I understand why they say high school never ends.” A recent survey suggests that for many workers, the office can seem a lot like the school yard. According to new research from OfficeTeam, more than a third of employees feel they are bullied at work.

According to recent research from staffing firm OfficeTeam, about 1 in 3 (35 percent) workers surveyed admitted they've had an office bully. More than one-quarter (27 percent) of HR managers interviewed said they think workplace bullying happens at least somewhat often at their company. (PRNewsFoto/OfficeTeam)

According to recent research from staffing firm OfficeTeam, about 1 in 3 (35 percent) workers surveyed admitted they’ve had an office bully. More than one-quarter (27 percent) of HR managers interviewed said they think workplace bullying happens at least somewhat often at their company. (PRNewsFoto/OfficeTeam)

OfficeTeam surveyed more than 300 workers and 300 HR managers and found that many of the respondents either experienced or were aware of bullying in the workplace. According to the survery, about one in three (35%) workers surveyed admitted they’ve had an office bully. Similarly, around one in four (27%) of the HR managers interviewed said they think workplace bullying happens at least somewhat often at their company.

“Workplace bullying often flies under the radar because employees tolerate or fail to report it,” said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam in a press release. “Managers and staff alike should be supported in addressing bullying issues. This includes not giving anyone a pass for negative behavior, no matter how valued that person may be.”

As one would expect, the study also showed that bullying had a negative effect on the employees who experienced it. Just under a third (32%) of those who were bullied said they confronted the bully and a quarter (27%), told their manager. The other 41 percent took actions such as quitting their job (13%), did nothing (17%) or a mysterious “other” option (11%). [Bullies may want to avoid drinking coffee given to them by those who chose “other”].

Why Workplace Bullying is Bad For Business and How Business Owners Can Respond

While a competitive environment can sometimes serve the interest of team, bullying is almost always detrimental. Bullying creates emotional distress in the target, which makes them a less productive employee. Also, other employees notice when bullying is allowed by a company, and it hurts the overall morale of the team.

It’s important for business owners and HR managers to be proactive about bullying. This starts with informing employees that bullying will not be tolerated and create confidential channels for people to report this sort of behavior. There’s a fine line between bullying and harassment. Companies that allow bullying may find themselves defending their business in court against charges of creating a hostile work environment. And win or lose, litigation is always a costly endeavor; both in lawyer fees and in damage to a company’s reputation. 

In the end, businesses work like little machines, and when two gears don’t mesh well together, the entire operation is slowed down as a result. The fact that a quarter of HR managers currently see bullying in their company is a sign that more needs to be done in those organization to create work environments that foster cooperation.   

Since HR managers can’t be everywhere at once, and it’s good to allow some time for employees to resolve things on their own, they may want to give advice to employees who think they are being bullied. For employees facing bullying, OfficeTeam offers these five suggestions:

  1. Take a stand. Avoid being an easy target. Bullies often back off if you show confidence and stick up for yourself.
  2. Talk it out. Have a one-on-one discussion with the bully, providing examples of behaviors that made you feel uncomfortable. It’s possible the person is unaware of how his or her actions are negatively affecting others.
  3. Keep your cool. As tempting as it is to go tit-for-tat, don’t stoop to the bully’s level. Stay calm and professional.
  4. Document poor conduct. Maintain a record of instances of workplace bullying, detailing what was said or done by the individual.  
  5. Seek support. If the issue is serious or you aren’t able to resolve it on your own, alert your manager or HR department for assistance.  

For more research and news that can help HR professionals, read this article on negativity in the workplace.

Donald Postway

About Donald Postway

Donald Postway is a freelance communications specialist and business analyst. He has a master's degree in public administration and a bachelor's degree in communications, both from the University of North Florida. He has worked in a variety of industries, including local government, information technology, marketing, retail and more.

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