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Workplace Bullying Often Goes Unpunished

Workplace Bullying Often Goes Unpunished
Businesses aren't worried about bullying. / Credit: Bully free sign image via Shutterstock

The National Football League isn't the only work environment with a bullying problem, new research shows.

In fact, 27 percent of U.S. employees have been bullied at work, and 7 percent of those incidents occurred in the last year, according to a study by the Workplace Bullying Institute, a U.S. organization dedicated to the eradication of workplace bullying. Based on the total number of employees in United States, that equates to nearly 37 million employees experiencing bullying in the workplace.

In addition, another 21 percent of workers have witnessed bullying — which is defined as abusive conduct that is threatening, intimidating, humiliating, work sabotage or verbal abuse — in their place of business. The research revealed that the majority of the people doing the bullying are in management positions. More than 55 percent of those who were bullied said it came from their boss. [Will Your New Boss Be a Jerk? New Computer Program Can Tell]

In addition, men are more than twice as likely as women to be bullies, and female employees are getting the brunt of their wrath. Specifically, 57 percent of the bullying targets for men are females, and 68 percent of women bullies target females.

Overall, employers are not doing much to stop such workplace mistreatment. Specifically, 25 percent did not investigate the claim, 31 percent either discounted it as not serious or considered it routine, 11 percent defended the bullies and 5 percent actively encouraged the abuse.

The study revealed several reasons why the bullying occurred, including that the targets had a personality flaw or were deficient in some work-related skill, and that bullies themselves are not held accountable, so they feel free to continue their actions.

In cases in which the bullying ended, the bullying targets lost their jobs 61 percent of the time — either because they were terminated, forced to quit or voluntarily resigned.

"Unfortunately, the victims of this serious health-harming abuse are the ones asked to stop it," said Gary Namie, director of the Workplace Bullying Institute. "If there were a law, as in Canada and other industrialized nations, employers would have to protect [bullied] workers."

The research shows that 93 percent of U.S. employees support the enactment of a new law that would protect all workers from repeated abusive mistreatment in the workplace, and just 1 percent of those surveyed strongly opposed such a measure.

The study was based on surveys of 1,000 adults in the United States, more than half of whom were currently employed.

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad 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. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.