Survey: Half of Americans Have Experienced Workplace Bullying

More than half of the working American population has suffered or witnessed workplace bullying, including verbal abuse, job sabotage, abuse of authority or destruction of workplace relationships, according to a new Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI)/Zogby Interactive survey.

The WBI survey found that an estimated 54 million employees - 37 percent of U.S. workers - have been bullied at some point in their work lives, while millions more have witnessed acts of workplace bullying. Despite this epidemic-level prevalence, 45 percent of respondents said they never have seen or experienced bullying at work.

“It's clearly a ‘silent epidemic,’” claims Dr. Gary Namie, director of the Workplace Bullying Institute in Bellingham, Wash. Stress from prolonged exposure to bullying (33 percent suffer for more than 1 year) adversely affects psychological or physical health of 45 percent of targets.

When bullies are women, they choose other women as their prey in 71 percent of cases, according to the survey. Bullying, or status-blind harassment, is four times more prevalent than illegal civil rights, status-based harassment. Namie adds, “[Bullying] was legal when we started the movement in 1998 and it still is today.”

Because 40 percent of bullied respondents left their jobs, it is estimated that the skills of more than 21 million workers are lost to employers due to bullying. When employers are notified, however, 62 percent of them reportedly do nothing or make matters worse, according to survey results.

Employer indifference may be based on the following findings:

  • Most bullies are bosses (72 percent);
  • Bullies enjoy support from executive sponsors, peers and human resources;
  • Most targets are non-supervisory workers (55 percent); and
  • In 80 percent of cases, it is legal.

The nationwide, interactive survey was conducted for 4 days in August 2007, and included 7,740 respondents. According to WBI, this is the largest national representative study on bullying in the United States to date.

Survey results can be found online at http://bullyinginstitute.org/wbizogby2007.html.

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