The Cold, Hard Facts About Workplace Bullying and How to Handle It

Business.com / HR Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

When you think of bullying, the workplace isn't the first setting that comes to mind. How is this very real issue impacting your office?

When we think of bullying, we often picture high school locker rooms, emotionally immature kids, and those of a lesser physical or social stature being preyed upon by lawless social predators.

When we think of this, something inside us, something so instinctive and involuntary that it seems almost primitive, screams out at us to do something, anything to stop the abuse. 

Yet, in the workplace, when bullying occurs, we have a different reaction. There is always the fear that the employer or bully will become retaliatory towards us if we speak up about the situation or “cause trouble.” Unfortunately, businesses don’t always care about workplace bullying, even though they should.

Why should employers care about workplace bullying?

As a business owner or manager, you should be concerned about workplace bullying for both monetary and non-monetary reasons. The costs in turnover and re-training, absenteeism, and potential litigation costs should be enough to have any business owner or manager concerned about workplace bullying.  Additionally, the resulting damage to the enterprise’s reputation and its related ability to attract strong talent should always be a key consideration for any growing enterprise.

Related Article: Bullying in the Workplace: Is California's Healthy Workplace Bill the Answer?

Typical Employer and Coworker Responses to Bullying

Unfortunately, most employers and coworkers will do nothing to aid a bullied coworker. Observe the following facts:

  • Less than 20 percent of employers will help a bullied target
  • Coworkers rarely help the targets of bullying
  • Most bullying targets are seen by coworkers as kind, cooperative, and agreeable people

So, not only are bullied employees reasonably decent people, they will most likely get little or no help from their employer, manager, or coworkers.

The Startling Statistics

These stats about workplace bullying might astonish you:

  • 72 percent of the adult America public is familiar with instances of workplace bullying
  • 65.6 million people are affected by bulling, including targets and witnesses
  • 69 percent of workplace bullies are men, while 60 percent of bullying targets are women
  • Targets lose their jobs at a significantly higher rate than perpetrators (82 percent vs. 18 percent)
  • 61 percent of all targets of bullying end up losing their job

To recap: few employees in the U.S. are strangers to seeing or experiencing workplace aggression, women are the most common targets, and the bullying victim is the one that most frequently gets fired or quits in frustration.

What is being done?

Thankfully, most informed Americans support legislation providing protection from workforce aggression. Currently, 29 states and two U.S. territories have introduced a version of The Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB), which is aimed at precisely defining an “abusive work environment,” providing specific rights for victims and protecting employers who take action against workplace bullies.

Related Article: What Preschoolers Can Teach Us About Company Culture

How Employers Can Prevent Workplace Bullying

  • Identify and control potential risks
  • Hold exit interviews, ask questions and communicate with your team
  • Recognize changes in employee relationships
  • Engage with poor performing employees to root out unseen abuse
  • Implement reporting and response procedures
  • Act promptly when reports surface or if aggression is identified
  • Treat all matters seriously
  • Maintain confidentiality
  • Be neutral to ensure fairness
  • Keep detailed records

If you have been a witness to the ongoing abuse of an employee or coworker, or if you have been victimized yourself, take a few moments to visit The Workplace Bullying Institute, and learn what you can do to prevent the problem and provide solutions.

Workplace aggression is a serious problem that can cost people their mental health, their livelihoods, or even their lives. Don’t let your company add more numbers to the statistics. Get involved before it spirals out of control.

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