Workplace Bullying: A New Trend or an Old Problem Gaining Attention?

By Judith Lindenberger, President, The Lindenberger Group.

“One office bully will email me and our boss and ask what they should do, excluding me. The other bully’s tactics are so subtle I can’t put my finger on it. The two bullies whisper in front of me and certain words are said in a heightened tone.”

If you have experienced similar behavior, you’re not alone. The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) reports that “35% of the U.S. workforce has experienced workplace bullying.”

Workplace bullies can yell at you in front of others, spread rumors, roll their eyes when you speak or “forget” to invite you to meetings. According to WBI, workplace bullying is “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons, by one or more perpetrators, in the form of verbal abuse, offensive conduct/behavior and work interference.”

Rakesh Malhotra, founder of Five Global Values, writes “[most bullies] portray themselves to society as polite and respectful, as they are charming in public.” Bullies often see themselves as victims and don’t get or care how they make others feel.

When bullies run amok, they cause psychological turmoil.  Gary Namie, founder of WBI, says victims display “hypertension, auto-immune disorders, depression, anxiety and PTSD.”

To gain further insight into workplace bullying, The Lindenberger Group, an American HR firm, conducted a survey in 2012.

80% of respondents stated that workplace bullying is a serious problem but only 25% of companies act on it.

Over 50% reported witnessing or being a victim of bullying at their current or previous workplace.

Bullying behaviors include swearing, shouting, humiliation, and invalid criticism and blame.

Over 90% of victims reported increased stress and lower job satisfaction.

Men (55%) are bullies more often than women (45%) while victims are mostly women (77%).

Most victims (58%) and bullies (67%) are between the ages of 41 to 60 which leads to an interesting question: will Millennials be less prone to bully?

Another finding is that most bullies (78%) are at a higher level than their victim.

Most respondents (88%) think that bullying is to express dominance or due to psychological issues; others see it as career-driven.

91% want disciplinary action for bullies, 89% want policies, 86% want to know how to report bullying, and 85% want training.

The course of action for HR is clear: develop policies, provide training, and let employees know how to report bullying.

The course of action for managers is also clear: take complaints seriously and discipline bullies. Finally, leaders must set the right tone, model appropriate behaviors and create a culture to prevent workplace bullying.

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