Workplace Bullying Increasing

A new study by CareerBuilder finds that workplace bullying is on the rise, with 35 percent of workers reporting they have felt bullied on the job, up from 27 percent last year.

 Sixteen percent of these workers reported they suffered health-related problems as a result of bullying and 17 percent decided to quit their jobs to escape the situation.

 The study  found the majority of incidents go unreported.  Twenty-seven percent of  targets said they reported the bullying to their Human Resources department. Of these workers, 43 percent reported that action was taken while 57 percent said nothing was done.

 The scientific  survey was conducted online  by Harris Interactive from May 14 to June 4, 2012 and included more than 3,800 workers nationwide.

 Who Are the Bullies?

 Of workers who felt bullied, 48 percent pointed to incidents with their bosses and 26 percent to someone higher up in the company. Forty-five percent said the bullies were coworkers  while 31 percent were picked on by customers. 

 More than half (54 percent) of those bullied said they were bullied by someone older than they were, while 29 percent said the bully was younger.

 Weapons of a Workplace Bully

 The most common way workers reported being bullied was getting blamed for mistakes they didn’t make followed by not being acknowledged and the use of double standards. The full list includes:

  • Falsely accused of mistakes – 42 percent
  • Ignored – 39 percent
  • Used different standards/policies toward me than other workers – 36 percent
  • Constantly criticized – 33 percent
  • Someone didn’t perform certain duties, which negatively impacted my work – 31 percent
  • Yelled at by boss in front of coworkers – 28 percent
  • Belittling comments were made about my work during meetings – 24 percent
  • Gossiped about – 26 percent
  • Someone stole credit for my work – 19 percent
  • Purposely excluded from projects or meetings – 18 percent
  • Picked on for personal attributes – 15 percent

Standing Up to the Bully

 About half (49 percent) of victims reported confronting the bully themselves, while 51 percent did not. Of those who confronted the bully, half (50 percent) said the bullying stopped while 11 percent said it got worse, and 38 percent said the bullying didn’t change at all.

The company offers the following tips for workers who are feeling bullied:

  1. Keep record of all incidents of bullying, documenting places, times, what happened and who was present.
  2. Consider talking to the bully, providing examples of how you felt treated unfairly. Chances are the bully may not be aware that he/she is making you feel this way. (Personally, I disagree.  Most bullies know exactly what they are doing. A small percentage are actually psychopaths ,completley lacking in empathy.  Use your judgment when confronting a bully – it may work but it also could escalate the problem or the bully could lay low until he/she sees the opportunity to finish the job.) 
  3. Always focus on resolution. When sharing examples with the bully or a company authority, center the discussions around how to make the working situation better or how things could be handled differently.

Surveys consistently show that between a quarter and a third of workers have felt bullied on the job. Furthermore, there is overwhelming research  that workplace bullying can lead to potentially severe mental and physical health problems. Yet, efforts to address the problem in the United States over the past decade have proved fruitless up to now. Meanwhile, many other industrialized countries have adopted regulations or laws to address workplace bullying which place the responsibility upon the employer to insure a safe bully-free workplace for employees.

Readers can sign a petition calling up the Secretary of Labor to take action to address the epidemic of workplace bullying by going here.

CareerBuilder’s on-line site, CareerBuilder.com®, is the largest in the United States with more than 24 million unique visitors, 1 million jobs and 49 million resumes.

 

Bullying Causes Co-Workers Stress

A recent study by researchers at New University of British Columbia (UBC) shows that co-workers who witness bullying  experience and may develop a stronger urge to quit than the actual direct targets of bullying.

According to the study: “Our results show that merely working in a work unit with a considerable amount of bullying is linked to higher employee turnover intentions.”

Sandra Robinson, a professor at the Sauder School of Business at UBC and co-author of the study, said society tends to assume that targets of bullying “bear the full brunt. However, our findings show that people across an organization experience a moral indignation when others are bullied that can make them want to leave in protest.”

The study is  published in the current edition of the journal Human Relations.

The researchers found that employees witnessing co-workers being bullied, or merely talking to them about their experiences,  tend to take  the targets’ perspective. As a result, they experience cognitive or emotional empathy, which includes imagining how another feels or actually sharing in another’s feelings. These empathetic responses contribute to the understanding that a significant moral violation has occurred and recognition that the victim does not deserve mistreatment. As a result of this moral uneasiness, bullying at large within a work unit will increase employee intentions to quit their work group

Data used for the study were collected through two surveys of a sample of 357 nurses in 41 units of a large Canadian health authority. The surveys used a series of questions to assess the level of bullying in each nursing unit and then asked participants to rate their positive or negative reactions toward statements like, “If I had a chance, I would change to some other organization.”

Findings show that all respondents who experience bullying, either directly or indirectly, reported a greater desire to quit their jobs than those who did not. However, the results also indicate that people who experienced it as bystanders in their units or with less frequency reported wanting to quit in even greater numbers.

Prof. Robinson said that prior research shows that intentions to quit are directly correlated with employees leaving their jobs. However, she warns that even if employees stay in their roles, an organization’s productivity can suffer severely if staff members have an unrealized desire to leave.

“Managers need to be aware that the behaviour is pervasive and it can have a mushrooming effect that goes well beyond the victims,” says Robinson. “Ultimately bullies can hurt the bottom line and need to be dealt with quickly and publicly so that justice is restored to the workplace.”

Lost in Discussion: Employers that Bully

 They Use Strategic Harassment and Exploitation

Most people who think of workplace bullies invoke the image of the combative boss played by Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glenn Ross or the passive-hostile magazine editor played by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada.

But some workplace bullies are not individuals but the employer itself – a fact that often gets lost in the discussion of workplace bullying. Some employers use strategic harassment tactics on workers to avoid legal obligations, such as the payment of fair wages, workers compensation or unemployment insurance.

Employers that bully promulgate policies that take advantage of their workers. For example, they steal wages from their employees by intentionally misclassifying them as exempt and thus ineligible for overtime.

The Progressive States Network estimates that low-wage workers lose $51 per week to wage theft, or $2,634 per year.  That amounts to approximately 15% of their annual income

Some employers use strategic harassment to get rid of good employees. This occurs when an employer targets one or more workers for harassment to achieve an organizational goal.  Some employers, for example, make life miserable for workers when they want to downsize without paying unemployment insurance. Or they harass a “troublemaker” who has asserted a legal right to fair compensation or overtime, essentially forcing him or her to quit.

Other employers knowingly tolerate bullies in their employ for crass economic reasons – athough that strategy can backfire.

Ani Chopourian filed at least 18 complaints with the Human Resources Dept. of Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento, CA, during the two years she worked there as a physician assistant. She was fired after the last complaint. A federal court jury in March awarded Chopourian $168 million in damages, believed to be the largest judgment for a single victim of workplace harassment in U.S. history.

Many of Chopourian’s complaints involved a bullying surgeon who she said once stabbed her with a needle. Another surgeon, she said, would greet her each morning with “I’m horny” and slap her bottom. Another called her “stupid chick” in the operating room and made disparaging remarks about her Armenian heritage, such as asking her if she had joined Al Qaeda.

Ms. Chopourian speculated that hospital administrators put up with misbehavior in the cardiac unit and tolerated the surgeons’ outsize egos because cardiac surgery tends to bring in the most money for any hospital facility.

Surveys show that workplace bullying is epidemic in the United States, where at least one in four American workers reports being bullied in the workplace.  Workplace bullying can cause a target to experience potentially severe psychological and physical illness, including clinical depression, post traumatic stress syndrome and stress-related chronic disease.

Much of the focus on the problem in the United States has involved a state-by-state campaign to pass a civil law that would allow targets of workplace bullying to seek damages from individual employers. However, such a law would do nothing to combat the systemic problem of employer bullying and abuse in the United States.

This blog is part of a loose-knit coalition of workplace anti-bully advocates that is calling upon the U.S. Secretary of Labor and the Obama administration to promulgate a comprehensive national solution to the problem of workplace bullying and abuse that would  address the problem of bullying employers.  If you agree, sign our petition at: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/protect-us-workers/?cid=FB_TAF.

Lesson of the Boys on the Bus

Could videotaping be a solution to workplace bullying?

It was in Karen Klein’s case.

As a result of a cell phone video that went viral on the Internet, four seventh-graders in upstate New York recently were suspended for a year for bullying Karen Klein, a 68-year-old school bus monitor.

Meanwhile, a fund drive started on Klein’s behalf has yielded more than $650,000 to date.

It is unlikely that anyone would have believed what Klein went through on that bus ride home if it had not been videotaped.  The youths’ behavior is so vile that it is shocking !

The four boys cruelly taunt and humiliate Klein, even commenting about the suicide of her oldest son.  (“You don’t have a family because they all killed themselves because they don’t want to be near you.”)  They invaded her personal and emotional space, as well as her physical space. They drove her to tears and they were positively gleeful about it.

Surveys show that at least one in four American workers experience a hostile workplace as a result of bullying. Adult bullies tend to be more sophisticated than middle school boys. Most bullies in the workplace are supervisors but they can also be co-workers and customers.

Supervisors undermine the target over time with unfair criticism and demeaning comments.  They sabotage the target’s work by providing inadequate resources and unrealistic deadlines. They set out to systematically destroy the target’s reputation and self-esteem.

Targets of workplace bullying currently have little or no legal recourse to address the problem unless they are targeted in violation of civil rights laws on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, etc.  Most targets of workplace bullying must either endure the bullying until they are sick, forced to quit or fired.

Other countries have adopted laws and regulations addressing workplace bullying but there is no state or federal law on the problem in the United States. Workplace bullying has been virtually ignored by the U.S. Secretary of Labor and the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

So back to Klein’s case. The videotape of the boys on the bus drew international attention to her plight. Maybe there’s a lesson there.

Employers today routinely monitor employees to insure against theft or fraud. Why shouldn’t employees electronically monitor the workplace?

Keep in mind that several states have laws that prohibit the use of devices that record, photograph or overhear events or conversations in private places. Private areas include places where a reasonable amount of privacy is expected, such as a restroom or a locker room. Most work areas are considered public but … anyone who is seriously considering the surreptitious monitoring of their workplace should review (in advance) the laws of their state and, if they’re smart, consult an attorney.

It’s a radical idea but maybe a few viral videos that demonstrate the real problem of workplace bullying in the United States would prompt some long overdue federal attention to the problem.