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Bullying forces turnover

Thursday October 02, 2014 Written by 
Is the American office the new playground for bullies? One in four workers probably think so.

Twenty-eight percent of workers told CareerBuilder they have felt bullied at work, and nearly one in five of these workers (19 per cent) left their jobs because of it. That's a lot of turnover among employers who may not even be aware there's a bullying issue in their workforce.

“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,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice-president of human resources at CareerBuilder.

Nearly half of workers who were bullied at work (48 per cent) took matters into their own hands and confronted the bully in an attempt to discourage the bullying from happening again. Of these workers, 45 per cent stated they were successful in stopping the bullying while 44 per cent said it made no difference and 11 per cent said the situation worsened.

Nearly one-third (32 percent) reported the bullying to their human resources department, but more than half of those who did (58 per cent) said no action was taken.

Ways people were bullied

Respondents reported a number of ways they felt bullied while on the job, including:
  • Falsely accused of mistakes he or she didn’t make (43 per cent)
  • Comments were ignored, dismissed or not acknowledged (41 per cent)
  • A different set of standards or policies was used for the worker (37 per cent)
  • Gossip was spread about the worker (34 per cent)
  • Constantly criticized by the boss or co-workers (32 per cent)
  • Belittling comments were made about the person’s work during meetings (29 per cent)
  • Yelled at by the boss in front of co-workers (27 per cent)
  • Purposely excluded from projects or meetings (20 per cent)
  • Credit for his or her work was stolen (20 per cent)
  • Picked on for personal attributes such as race, gender, appearance, etc. (20 per cent)
“The definition of bullying at work will vary considerably depending on whom you talk to,” Haefner said. “It’s often a grey area, but when someone feels bullied, it typically involves a pattern of behaviour where there is a gross lack of professionalism, consideration and respect – and that can come in various shapes and sizes. Whether it’s through intimidation, personal insults or behaviour that is more passive-aggressive, bullying can be harmful to the individual and the organization overall.”

Who are the bullies?

Of workers who felt bullied, 45 per cent said the main culprit was the boss while 25 per cent said the person was higher up in the organization, but not the boss. Forty-six per cent pointed the finger of blame at a co-worker.

More than half of workers who were bullied (53 per cent) said the aggressor was someone older while 25 per cent were bullied by someone younger.

Most of the situations involved one person, but nearly one in five workers who were bullied (19 per cent) said the incidents took place in a group setting where more than one person partook in the bullying.

The nationwide survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from May 13 to June 6. The survey included a representative sample of 3,372 full-time, private sector workers across industries and company sizes.

Tips for dealing with a bully in the workplace
  1. Keep records of all incidents of bullying, documenting places, times, what happened and who was present.
  2. Talk to the bully, providing specific examples of how the bullied individual was treated unfairly. Chances are the bully may not be aware that he or she was made to feel this way.
  3. Always focus on resolving the situation. 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.

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