August 16, 2012
Bullying at the workplace: Statistics on bullying

Do you worry about bullying at the workplace? Is it a concern in your organization? Do you know the prevalence across the nation? Studies show that up to 50 percent of workers have been exposed to bullying or some other form of workplace harassment. With such a staggering number, HR managers are being asked more and more to respond to claims of workplace bullying and mobbing – even at the supervisory level.

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Bullying at the Workplace: Definitions of Key Terms

"Workplace mobbing is nonsexual harassment of a coworker by a group of members of an organization for the purpose of removing the targeted individual or individuals from the organization or at least from a particular unit of the organization. In other words, ultimately, in a mobbing the goal is to get rid of a person." Maureen Duffy told us during a recent BLR webinar.

"Mobbing involves individual, group, and organizational dynamics. What that means is, in a workplace mobbing, at some level, everyone gets in on the act. The organization and its representatives become involved, both by taking (perhaps) aggressive action against the targeted employee when it is unwarranted or by failing to take action to protect an employee when action is warranted."

It predictably results in the humiliation, devaluation, discrediting, and degradation, loss of professional reputation and, often, removal of the victim from the organization through termination, extended medical leave, or quitting. The results of this typically protracted traumatizing experience are significant financial, career, health, and psychosocial losses or other negative consequences. Mobbing has different levels of severity.

In contrast to mobbing, bullying at the workplace is abusive and harmful behavior directed at a specific victim or victims by a single offender. The bully may be a peer or supervisor, but other members of the work group are not involved, although others may have observed the abuse. Unlike mobbing, there is little or no direct organizational involvement in the abusive behavior.

Workplace bullying or mobbing is a pattern of hostile, abusive behavior in the workplace, targeting one or more organizational members, that continues for a period of time and results in harm to the targets.

Bullying at the Workplace: Statistics on Bullying

"Prevalent statistics for the United States and other western countries (depending on the study) indicate a range of between 35 and 50 percent. What that means is, that between 35 and 50 percent of workers have been bullied or otherwise abused in their workplaces at some point during their careers." Duffy told us. "And for those of you in HR, you might be very interested to learn of the frequency statistics that were reported in a very recent study – 31 percent of human resources personnel had been bullied and over half of that bullied group believed it was because of their role in human resources and their associated responsibilities."

As if the personal implications weren’t enough, there is also a financial aspect to this situation. "In the United States, the actual cost . . . $250 million annually in expenditures related to health care, litigation, staff turnover, and retraining from workplace bullying and mobbing." Duffy explained. This figure may be low given a lot of these types of costs are not always attributed to bullying when in fact they could be.

Maureen Duffy, Ph.D., is a consultant to individuals and organizations, a practicing family therapist, an educator, and an author with more than 25 years of experience. She is the co-author of two books, including Mobbing: Causes, Consequences, and Solutions, which focuses on workplace and school mobbing and bullying.

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