Bullying isn’t just an issue in the classroom. It can spring to life in the boardroom as well.
Nearly one third of workers report having felt bullied at work, according to a study released today by CareerBuilder. Even worse? Roughly 20% ended up leaving their job because of it.
The study is based on data from a nationwide survey conducted by Harris Poll of nearly 3,400 full-time, private sector employees throughout various industries and company sizes.
“Bullying impacts workers of all backgrounds regardless of race, education, income, and level of authority within an organization,” said vice president of human resources Rosemary Haefner, in a statement. “Many of the workers who have experienced this don’t confront the bully or elect not to report the incidents, which can prolong a negative work experience that leads some to leave their jobs.”
What, exactly, constitutes bullying?
A few main complaints among those who felt bullied were being falsely accused of mistakes they hadn’t made, feeling ignored or dismissed, feeling judged against a different standard than others, or being the subject of gossip. Still others felt belittled during meetings, constantly criticized, admonished in front of co-workers, deliberately excluded from projects and meetings, or attacked for personal characteristics like race, gender, and physical appearance.
“It’s often a gray area, but when someone feels bullied, it typically involves a pattern of behavior where there is a gross lack of professionalism, consideration, and respect,” said Haefner, “and that can come in various shapes and sizes. Whether it’s through intimidation, personal insults, or behavior that is more passive-aggressive, bullying can be harmful to the individual and the organization overall.”
And when choosing a target, workplace bullies seem to maintain an equal-opportunity policy. Thirty-four percent of female workers say they’ve experienced bullying at work, compared to 22% of male. A quarter of Latino workers and 27% of African American employees have felt bullied. Twenty-four percent of Caucasian male employees felt the same. Forty-four percent of physically disabled workers report having felt bullied as do nearly a third of LGBT workers.
Of the quarter of workers who said that bullying was occurring in the job they currently held, employees in management roles were the most likely to feel as such. The percentage of workers earning less than $50,000 a year who felt bullied, currently, was nine points higher than that of those earning above $50,000.
Nearly half the time, “the bully” him or herself turns out to be the boss or a co-worker. A quarter of people reported being bullied by a superior who was not their direct boss. Usually the bully was one person, but 19% of workers said they had been targeted by a group.
Also of note, government workers were “nearly twice as likely to report being bullied (47%) than those in the corporate world (28%).”
Can workplace bullying ever really be solved? Almost half of workers who reported having been bullied confronted the culprit to try to end the behavior. Of those who chose this option, nearly half reported success–though an equal share said it changed nothing, and 11% said the bullying “worsened.” Thirty-two percent alerted HR to the situation, but 58% of those individuals said nothing was done in response.
CareerBuilder recommends those who feel bullied keep meticulous documentation of each situation, including the time and place of incidents and the names of all involved.
Additionally, individuals should consider a firm, polite confrontation in which the bully or bullies are made aware of how the individual feels, as well as specific examples of the behavior in question.
Finally, “always focus on the resolution.” When confronting a bully, individuals should ensure they center their focus on what changes can be made to improve working conditions going forward.