April 6, 2018
Nearly 20% of adult Americans are being bullied or have been bullied at work, with women disproportionately targeted, a 2017 survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) found.
The survey found:
Andrew Faas, author of The Bully’s Trap: Bullying in the Workplace (Tate Publishing, 2016), said during an AMA podcast that bullying happens because it’s part of a workplace’s culture.
In most cases, a bully has been bullied in the past. Bullies believe that to stay or to advance in an organization, they have to do the same, Faas explained. “Why do they bully? It’s expected,” he said.
Their goal is to discredit their target, Faas said. The abusive boss may ask the employee to make a presentation but deny her access to the material needed. Or the boss may exclude the person from important meetings, or criticize her to superiors when she’s not there to defend herself. This is not an “aggressive management style,” he emphasized.
“Executives feel that creating a less toxic workplace will restrict managers from doing their jobs. That’s a myth,” Faas said. “In some instances, you have to take tough actions (with employees), and that is not bullying.”
The effects of bullying are huge for everyone who is targeted, Shimi Kang, MD, author of The Dolphin Way (TarcherPerigee, 2014), writes in Psychology Today.
“I’ve seen highly intelligent, high functioning, strong-willed, passionate employees succumb to the pressures of workplace bullying,” Kang writes. “Common outcomes include stress, mental health issues, disability leave, absenteeism, employee turnover, reduced productivity, reduced job satisfaction, and at times soaring legal expenses.”
Bullying often extends to isolation from co-workers. The 2017 WBI survey found that 40% of co-workers who were aware of the bullying did nothing, 13% ostracized or avoided the targets, and only 10% publicly helped their co-workers.
Don’t deal with bullying alone, Faas advised. Find someone either in your organization or outside to talk to and strategize with. And don’t become the bully, or a disgruntled employee, from frustration, he said.
WBI’s website offers a “3-Step Target Action Plan” that includes:
If you have to leave your job, hold your head up. If you leave “shrouded in silent shame,” says WBI, it will only take you longer to rebound, get a new job, and restore your health.