Bullies Make Working Tough

Apr 21, 2011

Those who thought they left bullies behind in grade school
or high school often get a rude surprise when they find work as adults. A new
study from CareerBuilder shows that 27 percent of workers have felt bullied
in the workplace at some point in their career.

Women were most likely to experience
bullying on the job with 34 percent saying they had been a target compared
to 22 percent of men.

The most likely offenders on the job were bosses. Fourteen
percent named an immediate supervisor as someone that bullied them followed
by a co-worker (11 percent), someone higher in the company but not their boss
(seven), and a customer (seven percent.)

"Bullying is a serious offense that can disrupt the work environment,
impact morale and lower productivity," said Rosemary Haefner, vice president
 of human resources, CareerBuilder. "If you are feeling bullied, keep track
of what was said or done and who was present. The more specifics you can provide,
the stronger the case you can make for yourself when confronting the bully
head on or reporting the bully to a company authority."

Bullying in the workplace
doesn’t usually include physical intimidation, but it does come in many forms,
according to CareerBuilder’s research. These include dealing with:

  • Comments dismissed (43 percent);
  • Being falsely accused of mistakes (40 percent);
  • Harsh criticism (38 percent);
  • Being forced to doing work not in the job description (38 percent);
  • Different standards and policies being applied for other workers (37 percent);
  • Mean looks (31 percent);
  • Gossip (27 percent);
  • Being yelled at in front of co-workers (24 percent);
  • Belittling comments about personal performance during meetings (23 percent);
  • Others stealing credit for work they didn’t do (21 percent).

While bullies may be intimidating, most targets tackled the situation head on.
Forty-seven percent said they confronted bullies directly about their behavior.
Of these, 43 percent said the bullying came to an end. Of the balance, 13 percent
said the situation worsened while 44 percent said it was unchanged.

Going over
the bully’s head was another course of action taken with 28 percent going to
human resources for action. Unfortunately, 62 percent said no action was taken
as a result of their complaints.

According to a 2007 survey by the Workplace
Bullying Institute and Zogby, 45 percent of individuals targeted by bullies
suffer stress-related health issues.

Discussion Questions: In your experience, how common is bullying in the workplace? How would you recommend workers deal with bullies on the job?

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14 Comments on "Bullies Make Working Tough"

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Paula Rosenblum
11 years 1 month ago

In my career I worked for two different bullies, both the CEOs of their respective companies.

I tried very hard to make it work with each of them, using all the various tools and techniques suggested. In both cases, my physical health suffered. In each case, I ended up leaving the job. The first time I just walked away. The second time, even as it took its toll, I found a new job.

I have learned one thing. You CANNOT change a real bully’s nature. Even therapists say that. Don’t even try. Protect yourself and just walk away. Period.

David Livingston
11 years 1 month ago

Typically, a bully has a lot more problems and eventually they will show up and the bully will be gone. If that doesn’t happen, then I suggest studying the bully. Find their weakness and exploit it. You might have to spend a little money but its worth it. Basically what I did was psychological torture until they gave up. I probably should not write what I did but my coworkers thanked me later.

Warren Thayer
11 years 1 month ago

Well, by the definition of bullying given here, I’d say anybody with a pulse has experienced workplace bullying. I know I certainly have, going by those definitions. Many times, I’d had people take credit for initiatives I’d made or ideas I had, so I made a point, years ago, to be certain I had early documentation of those things, and brought it up at an appropriate (and embarrassing) time for the bully. Aside from that, I never found going thru channels to be worth a damn. Over the years, well-planned and crafty guerrila warfare was always the most effective, and the most satisfying. Perhaps the single best thing about going into business for yourself is you no longer have to put up with workplace jerks, and can devote more energy into getting your “real” job done.

Ryan Mathews
11 years 1 month ago

Gosh…I remember when I worked with George and he always used to shake us down for our milk money…oh…sorry…too personal.

A couple of thoughts here. I wonder if women really are bullied more or if they are the victims of the sexual harassment and sexist “frat boy” culture still all too common in all too many companies.

Is that a form of bullying? Clearly; it is also a problem whose roots go deeper in the American corporate psyche.

As to the best strategy, if a good deal of bullying comes from, bosses–as it clearly does–does this study want us to believe that a near majority of workers confront their superiors’ bad behavior straight on?

Maybe so, but I’d be surprised.

Now, in George’s case, we all got together one night and …er….sorry…that’s a much longer story.

Mel Kleiman
11 years 1 month ago

Best advice I ever had on dealing with a workplace bully. When it starts to happen just put your hand up as a policeman would and say stop. I don’t like your tone, or your language or your threatening manner. (Whatever.)

Face the bully and they will back off and go away.

Tony Orlando
11 years 1 month ago

There is a fine line between bullying someone, and trying to discipline a worker for something they may have done wrong. Many times the worker’s perception is skewed, leading others to believe that the employee is being bullied. I believe in pulling someone aside, and going over an issue one to one.

I will not tolerate an unbearable employee, and simply would release them from my business. Our workers do not deserve an overbearing manager, BUT there a a lot of thin skinned people who think they are being picked on, when in reality, it is simply constructive criticism.

Cathy Hotka
11 years 1 month ago

Toxic corporate cultures are degrading and demeaning. If you are lucky enough to leave one of these companies you’ll thank yourself every day after….

Bill Emerson
Bill Emerson
11 years 1 month ago

I guess I really am a dinosaur. Mean looks? Are you kidding me? The workplace, certainly in today’s economy, is a high-stress environment where people are, well, human, with all the attendant flaws and weaknesses. But what it is not is personal. That’s the reason you get paid to be there.

Secondly, no one is forced to work in an environment that they find unpleasant or demeaning. If these individuals are unhappy with the environment, they should find another job like all us old fogeys used to do. Hopefully, they’ll find a place where everyone if nice and friendly. Good luck with that. The reality, and especially in retail, is that retail ain’t a beanbag.

Gene Detroyer
11 years 1 month ago

Only 27%. It seems I have seen a lot more bullying than that. And it seems, the higher the level the executive the more there is a tendency to bully. Please, that is not to damn every executive. To qualify, in 40 years of working for or having interaction with organizations, there has been at least one bully present on every occasion. And they are not only bad for the people; I have found that they make bad decisions for the business. Maybe that is why they have to bully?

Tim Henderson
Tim Henderson
11 years 1 month ago

With the recent, renewed focus on childhood bullying, I’m hopeful we’ll also see a similar, increasing focus on adult and workplace bullying. This study will definitely help. At a minimum, it sheds light on an often overlooked form of bullying, and one that impacts many consumers and their ability to work productively. Having worked in an office environment for more than two decades for several employers, I’ve been the unfortunate, firsthand witness to some of the bullying tactics cited here.

If bullied workers are to realize peace of mind in their daily work, then employers must take the lead by developing policies, practices and educational programs to better inform employees about workplace bullying and the corrective measures the company has in place to remedy such situations.

Carol Spieckerman
Carol Spieckerman
11 years 1 month ago

Like Paula, I had two major bully bosses in my pre-entrepreneur career. I outlived one of them (he got cut and I was promoted) and happily left the other company for a much bigger opportunity after building a multi-million-dollar business for them. In that situation, I turned down a counter-offer from her boss, spelled out the reason for my departure in the exit interview and hopped on a plane. No regrets!

For uber-bullies, laughing in the midst of a rampage is surprisingly effective. The exchange goes something like this:
“Why are you laughing?”
“I don’t know – I guess I’ve just never witnessed an outburst like that in the workplace. Sorry. Go on.”

Mark Burr
11 years 1 month ago
Think I have to agree with a little of Paula and a little of Carol on this one. Bullies only succeed if they are allowed to bully. It’s just not acceptable behavior. We’re adults right? We know how to speak to one another right? Most people when changing jobs, however, change to leave a boss not a company. Nevertheless, there is the possibility that bosses can be taught how to be better bosses by those working for them. I have been taught by them and I expect to have it happen again. Simply sucking it up and taking it is the surest way to a lot of unhealthy things. Laughter may be one of the best remedies. Expressing the unacceptability is another. Faith and trust, as well as, being happy and comfortable in your own skin is yet another. Leaving is always an option. My personal choice is being a better leader and attempting to be the best person I can than the bully. I’ve lived through the alternatives. It’s the best answer. One of… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
11 years 1 month ago

“27% of American workers are wimps” might have been the better head for this story (at least if criteria such as “mean looks” were the threshold for “bullying”). I wonder how people like this would be able to tolerate the truly abusive bosses…their customers.

Ed Rosenbaum
11 years 1 month ago

I have experienced bullying in the workplace. But not to an excessive level. It was a manager flexing his title. He tried it once too often in the presence of his direct report. It cost him his position as he was summarily demoted.

My wife is experiencing it now. Her bosses daughter has started working in the business. She thinks she knows in one month what it takes others many years to attain. She takes advantage of being the daughter of the boss and her mother supports it. She spoiled her as a child and it continues.


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