Author: Kit Muellner, LICSW, EAGALA Certified and CEO of H.O.P.E. Ranch
Bullying isn’t just about schoolkids or athletes. It’s rampant in many workplaces, no matter the industry. It is said that workplace bullying has become a national epidemic.
In fact, the Workplace Bullying Institute, which has been around for 20 years, conducts studies on the topic and works to combat this debilitating problem. Whether you are an employee or the employer, these facts will serve as a wake-up call.
What is Workplace Bullying?
Bullying in the workplace may occur in many forms and can come from a co-worker, a boss or even a subordinate. Some forms of workplace bullying may be:
- Swearing and intimidation
- Teasing; especially when it takes a personal nature; comments about the target’s work, behaviors, and even family members.
- Snide and mean comments
- Taking credit for your work, even subliminally
- Attempts to make you look incompetent
- Constant criticism
- The creation of impossible expectations and changing expectations or directions in the final moment.
Statistics on Bullying In the Workplace
Does it really happen? Yes. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, it happens in all industries and
there are groups more often targeted than others.
Here are the findings:
- 19% of Americans are bullied, another 19% witness it
- 61% of Americans are aware of abusive conduct in the workplace
- 60 million Americans are affected by it
- 70% of perpetrators are men; 60% of targets are women
- Hispanics are the most frequently bullied race
- 61% of bullies are bosses, the majority (63%) operate alone
- 40% of bullied targets are believed to suffer adverse health effects
- 29% of targets remain silent about their experiences
- 71% of employer reactions are harmful to targets
- 60% of coworker reactions are harmful to targets
- To stop it, 65% of targets lose their original jobs
- 77% of Americans support enacting a new law
Workers: What to Do if You Are Bullied at Work
Recognize that it’s not your fault. Take an assessment of your mental and physical health. Being bullied at work can weigh heavily on you and your health. Consider taking time off to clear your head. Very importantly, don’t allow yourself to replay the acts of bullying over and over in your mind. Put a name to what’s happening to you so you can legitimize it; bullying, abuse, harassment, etc.
Once you have done this it’s time to get down to business.
Document the abuse. Not with emotion but with just the facts; time, date, perpetrator, description of abuse.
Expose the bully. Bullying doesn’t get better on its own and if it continues, you are 77.7% likely to lose your job anyway, typically due to either health problems or simply choosing to leave on your own. You actually have little to lose by exposing the bully.
Here’s how: A) Present the case from a business standpoint. It is expensive and legally risky to have a bully in place, which is something a business should care about. They do not care about your emotions or how this makes you feel. (sorry, they just don’t.) Give the employer only one chance and if they stick up for the bully, it’s time to plan your exit strategy.
Employers: What to Do if An Employee Comes to You for Help
You saw the stats. Bullying in the workplace is a big problem and it can be costly. It can even become a HUGE legal issue. Bullying itself is hard to litigate but here’s where it becomes an issue; if the target is female, over a certain age, or any vulnerable group. If the bullying ever became violent, physically threatening or mentally threatening, or starts to fall into the sexual harassment arena. As you can see, you as an employer can easily be the victim of a workplace bully and it’s going to hit you in the bottom line. It may ruin your business and you could even lose your business. Here are steps you can take:
- If an employee comes to you, listen, and even, shut up. Take in what the employee is saying, without offering an explanation or saying things like, “That’s just the way he is” and don’t ever say anything that puts the blame on the target.
- The employee obviously wants to stay in their job so remember that. They simply want the problem solved. Remember the “shut up” advice in point #1. That’s because this is a hairy area and you are not likely equipped to deal with this, which is okay. Most people are not. Take action to correct this: Seek help, pull in counselors or consultants that are knowledgeable in this area. Send the perpetrators to training/counseling.
- Use this as a learning experience. Now is the time to write policies and develop a process for ongoing education and awareness of workplace bullying.
I’m passionate about improving the lives of people in the workplace locally. In fact, HOPE Ranch provides team building, corporate development, and staff retreats to organizations in the Greater Rochester Area, and Greater Minnesota, and Northern Iowa. Just as psychotherapy facilitates individual growth and healing, corporate retreats and development facilitate identification of issues in your team/organization, and development and implementation of real, effective solutions. We see real breakthroughs happen in a safe and helpful environment. If you’re having an issue with your team or suspect you have a bully in your midst (even if you might be the bully) reach out. We’ve helped many others and we can help you.
Kit Muellner is the Owner & Founder of H.O.P.E. Ranch. She is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and
is an EAGALA Certified Psychotherapist and Horse Specialist. Kit is well known as a stand out in her field,
specializing in work with children, adults, and families. Before starting H.O.P.E. Ranch in 1999, Kit worked with
facilities such as Olmsted County, Omnia Family Services, Gerard Treatment Facilities, Mendota Mental Health Institute and Mayo Clinic.