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Build Your Career Office Life

Office Bullies Target Workers of Every Stripe

Office Bullies Target Workers of Every Stripe
Credit: mikute/Shutterstock

Just because you've moved from school to an office doesn't mean you're done dealing with bullies.

Nearly 30 percent of employees have felt bullied at work at some point in their careers, according to a new study from CareerBuilder. Of those, 19 percent of have left their jobs because of the experience.

Front-line workers aren't the only victims of workplace bullying. While the prevalence is higher among certain minorities and among workers with lower incomes, bullying still affects those in management roles, employees with post-secondary education and other workforce segments, the research found.

Nearly the same percentage of managers experience bullying as those in entry-level positions. Specifically, 27 percent of those being bullied in their current job work in management positions, such as managers, directors, team leaders and vice presidents, compared to 26 percent of workers in entry-level and clerical positions.

"One of the most surprising takeaways from the study was that bullying impacts workers of all backgrounds, regardless of race, education, income and level of authority within an organization," Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, said 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."

While the characteristics of the individuals doing the bullying vary greatly, those in charge usually commit the offenses. The study revealed that of the workers who felt bullied, 45 percent said the main culprit was the boss, with 25 percent saying the person was higher up in the organization, but not the boss. [Workplace Isolation Is Silent Form of Bullying ]

The definition of bullying can vary significantly, depending on whom you talk to, Haefner said.

"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. And that can come in various shapes and sizes," she said. "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."

Office bullies most commonly target their co-workers or employees by falsely accusing them of mistakes they didn't make; ignoring, dismissing or neglecting to acknowledge their comments; subjecting them to a different set of standards or policies than their peers; and constantly criticizing them.

Workers also reported that bullies make belittling comments about the victims' work during meetings, yell at underlings in front of co-workers, steal credit for the victims' work and pick on them due to their personal attributes, such as their race, gender or appearance.

Confronting an office bully tends to have mixed results, the research showed. Overall, nearly half of the employees who were bullied at work took matters into their own hands and confronted the offender in an attempt to discourage the bullying from happening again. Of those, 45 percent were successful in stopping the bullying, while 44 percent said it made no difference, and 11 percent said the situation worsened.

Additionally, 32 percent reported the bullying to their human resources department, but more than half of those who made such a report said the department took no action.

CareerBuilder offers employees several tips when dealing with a bully, including:

  • Keep records of all incidents of bullying. Be sure to document places, times, what happened and who was present.
  • Try talking to the bully. Provide specific examples of how you were treated unfairly. The bully may not be aware that he or she is making you feel this way.
  • Always focus on the resolution. When sharing examples with the bully or a company authority, center the discussions on how to make the working situation better or how to handle things differently.

The study was based on surveys of 3,372 full-time, private-sector workers across a range of industries and company sizes.

Originally published on Business News Daily

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.

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