According to a recent study up to 30% of all American workers say they have been "bullied" at work.
Many Americans are familiar with sexual and racial harassment, but not generalized workplace bullying,” said study team member Sarah Tracy of Arizona State University. Bullying can lead to higher company costs including increased employee illness, use of sick days, and medical costs, ultimately affecting productivity, she added.
Workplace bullying can include “screaming, cursing, spreading vicious rumors, destroying the target’s property or work product, excessive criticism, and sometimes hitting, slapping, and shoving.” Subtle behaviors, such as silent treatment, disregard of requests and exclusion from meetings, count as bullying.
Who falls prey to the office bully? Surprisingly it is not the grown up version of the awkward kid on the playground. In fact, according to the experts, office bullies go for the people who have the most potential to succeed. Gary Namie is a psychologist who not only studies workplace bullying but who has founded the nonprofit , BullyBusters,which is working to get states to pass anti-bullying workplace legislation.( 10 states have introduced legislation, none has passed a law)
"It's much different than school-yard bullying," he says. "This target isn't the kid with the Coke-bottle glasses."
Instead, workplace bullies tend to drive out colleagues they view as threats: those who are technically competent, independent, possess good social skills, and have strong ethics (and thus may be whistleblowers).
Targets tend to be reluctant to report bullying, primarily for fear of retribution, but also because they run the risk of being labeled a whiner or a snitch, or losing their job outright if the bully is their superior.
There is little evidence that workplace bullies go on to commit workplace violence. According to the Center for Disease Control's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, co-workers commit fewer than one in 10 acts of workplace violence.
While workplace bullying hasn't gotten a lot of attention in the U.S, it does seem to be a topic that has been "on the radar"in the UK and Australia for several years. There are several websites devoted to dealing with workplace bullying including Bully Online and Bullying that has posters and lots of information on how to deal with bullies.
How can you tell if you have a bully environment in your office? According to BullyOnline,
If you have a serial bully on the staff they will reveal themselves by their department showing excessive rates of
- staff turnover
- sickness absence
- stress breakdowns
- deaths in service
- ill-health retirements
- early retirements
- uses of disciplinary procedures
- grievances initiated
- uses of private security firms to snoop on employees
- litigation including employment tribunals or legal action against employees
Hat Tip to my buddy Harold for pointing me in the right direction.
Image Credit: Flickr member Indignico