Work Shouldn’t Hurt — National Bullying Prevention Month

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. And while it’s easy to reduce our thinking of this to mere playground bullying between children, statistics about workplace bullying will change your mind.

A survey in October 2019 found that nearly 94% out of 2081 employees said they had been bullied in the workplace. That’s a huge increase (19%) in the last eleven years.

Over half (51.1%) in that survey said they were bullied by a boss or other leader. The methods used included aggressive email tones (23.3%), coworkers’ negative gossip (20.2%) and someone yelling at them (17.8%).

Another recent study shows differing, yet still alarming statistics:

  • Almost 72 percent of employees report being bullied themselves or have witnessed other employees being bullied
  • Some 65 million U.S employees report being affected by workplace bullying
  • 93 percent of adult Americans support a law outlawing generalized bullying in the workplace

Studies in Malaysia, United Kingdom and Australia also indicate the rise of workplace bullying is a concern in their work forces.

Workplace bullying refers to repeated actions aimed towards employees meant to insult them. Actions like this pose a risk to employees’ health and safety.

There is a difference between bullying and aggression. Aggression usually involves a single act. In contrast, bullying behavior involves repeated actions against a target.

It is a current pattern of behavior.

Bullying at work involves an abuse of power. Intimidating, humiliating and degrading an employee are behaviors of bullying. It creates a feeling of helplessness in the bullying target.

The overlap of definitions between workplace bullying and workplace violence, according to OSHA, are becoming more congruent. It very much aligns with the domestic definition of emotional abuse by a spouse and domestic violence. The similarities are striking, and concerning.

Several studies have confirmed a relationship between bullying, on the one hand, and an autocratic leadership and an authoritarian way of settling conflict or dealing with disagreements, on the other. An authoritarian style of leadership may create a climate of fear, where there is little or no room for dialogue and where complaining may be considered futile.

Just because bullying is common doesn’t mean it’s normal. This is unacceptable behavior and it should not be normalized.

Work Shouldn’t Hurt: Take Action

If you’re being bullied or witnessing it at work, don’t silence yourself and don’t let it continue. Document the bullying actions, and report them to your supervisor, or to HR is your supervisor is the perpetrator.

If HR or your supervisors won’t help, it’s best to leave for a better organization where a bullying culture is not tolerated, not matter how well the bully performs her or his job.

Bullying has been a concern linked to mental problems, stress, and suicides throughout the world.

Workplace bullying can take an enormous toll on your mental health. In addition to anxiety, depression and turning to substance abuse, workplace bullying strips another human being of their dignity. If you find yourself having health issues or behavioral or emotional trauma, it’s best to seek professional help to get you on the right path to bring yourself whole again.

Workplace bullying is a behavior that is allowed to happen when people create a culture to manipulate the perceived benefits of a few over the common good of all. It’s time to call it out for what it is and enable your organization to change — either by removing the bully’s behavior or removing good people from them and promoting a more civilized way of work.

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© 2020 Paul LaRue (The UPwards Leader). All rights reserved

(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)




Mentor, author, consultant — inspiring and teaching people to look and grow UPward!

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Paul LaRue

Paul LaRue

Mentor, author, consultant — inspiring and teaching people to look and grow UPward!

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