Statistics on Workplace Bullying

bullying-in-the-workplaceThe ESRI Reports (2007) commissioned by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment expose a disturbing picture of the prevalence of bullying in the workplace. Below are the summary statistics of the two national surveys – one of employees and the other of employers in both the public and private sectors.

Employee Survey

·         7.9% of those at work report that they have experienced bullying within the past 6 months – an equivalent of 159,000 individuals.

·         At 10.7%, women are more at risk than men (at 5.8%).

·         A substantially higher percentage of employees report experiencing bullying than those who are self-employed.

·         In general, those with higher levels of educational attainment are more likely to report experiencing bullying in the workplace: 4.4% of those who have completed the Junior Certificate or lower qualification; 8.7% for those with Leaving Certificate; and 9.5% for those who completed third level.

·         The sectors with the highest rates of bullying are education, public administration, health and social work and transport and communications, with between 12% and 14% incidence rates. Generally, the rate in the public sector is higher than in the private sector.

·         The larger the organisation, the greater the prevalence of bullying: 4.5% of those working in very small organisations with less than five employees report experiencing bullying in the workplace; 7.1% of those in small organizations; 9.7% of those in medium-sized firms and 10.9% of respondents in large organisations.

·         Workers are at greater risk of experiencing bullying in organisations undergoing change such as a change of manager or supervisor: around 11% report that they had been bullied compared to about 6% of those who had not experienced such change.

·         The vast majority of respondents discussed the matter informally, both inside and outside of work. However, over 50% discussed the bullying with a supervisor and just under 25% referred the matter to the personnel department. Around 20% used a grievance procedure at their place of work while 17% of respondents who experienced bullying in the workplace referred the matter to a trade union or staff association.

·         While nearly 30% considered seeking a transfer within their organisation, about 11% report that they did seek a transfer within the company. Nearly 60% of respondents considered quitting their jobs and just over 15% report that they actually took this course of action. Nearly 9% approached a support group or agency for advice. Approximately 20% report that they have taken sick leave directly because of the bullying.

·         Over 48% indicated that it has had a negative effect on their life outside work. 10% of respondents who report having been bullied claim that it has had a very significant detrimental effect on their lives in general.

·         Conclusion: the multivariate analysis suggests that the principal determinants of workplace bullying have less to do with the characteristics of the victim, and more to do with the nature and organisation of the workplace. It suggests that, if the principal drivers of bullying are organisational in nature, then appropriate workplace practices and policies can be developed to reduce, if not eliminate, the problem.

Employers Survey

·         Bullying is more likely to be perceived as a problem, be it minor, moderate or major, in the public sector than in the private sector.

·         About 10% of micro organisations (with less than 10 employees) perceive bullying to be a moderate or major problem, the comparable figure for large organisations (with 250 or more staff) is nearly 30%.

·         Bullying by colleagues and by clients is more of a problem than bullying by subordinates or managers – this is particularly true in public sector organisations.

·         Public sector respondent organisations are more likely to report having a formal policy on workplace bullying operating in their organisations than those in the private sector.

·         Over half of all organisations report that they have heard of a Code of Practice and are aware of its requirements. There is considerable variation in the public and private sectors, with a greater percentage of public sector organisations indicating that they are familiar with the Codes of Practice on workplace bullying.

·         About 30% report that they have informal procedures in place to deal with workplace bullying. Approximately half have formal procedures operating while just over a third have an independent complaints procedure. Formal systems are much more prevalent in public sector organisations than in the private sector.

·         A higher percentage of public sector organisations indicate that they have at least one of the three systems or procedures in place to deal with workplace bullying than private sector organisations.

·         When there is organisational restructuring, technological change and the expansion/reduction of the workforce, over half report that there is a problem with bullying in their organisation; the comparable figure for those who did not report any organizational restructuring is 23%.

·         Nearly three quarters of public sector respondent organisations report that bullying has a minor, moderate or major impact on employee morale. This compares to just under 58% of private sector organisations. While nearly 47% of respondents from the public sector indicate that bullying impacts on absenteeism, the comparable figure for private sector organisations is just over 30%.