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Have Your Ever Been Bullied at Work?

Workplace bullying: North America’s silent epidemic

by Ray Williams, Financial Post (Canada), May 4, 2011

Workplace bullying has become a silent epidemic in North America, one that has huge hidden costs in terms of employee well being and productivity. Also known as psychological harassment or emotional abuse, bullying involves the conscious repeated effort to wound and seriously harm another person — not with violence, but with words and actions. Bullying damages the physical, emotional and mental health of the targeted person.

The workplace bully abuses power and endeavors to steal the target’s self-confidence. Bullies often involve others using tactics such as blaming the target for errors, unreasonable work demands, insults, putdowns, taking credit for the person’s work, threatening job loss and discounting accomplishments.

Bullying has become a serious problem in the workplace. In two surveys by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) and Zogby International, where bullying was defined as “repeated mistreatment: sabotage by others that prevented work from getting done, verbal abuse, threatening conduct, intimidation and humiliation,” 35% of workers experienced bullying first hand, and 62% of the bullies were men. A Harris Interactive poll conducted in 2011 revealed that 34% of women reported being bullied in the workplace. The WBI concluded while perpetrators can be found in all ranks within organizations, the vast majority are bosses — managers, supervisors, and executives.

What’s the impact of bullying behaviour?

Bullies create a terrible toll within an organization. Their behaviour leads to increased levels of stress among employees, higher rates of absenteeism and higher than normal attrition. Because bullies often get results by getting more short-term production out of employees, they are tolerated. One study by John Medina showed that workers stressed by bullying performed 50% worse on cognitive tests. Other studies estimate the financial costs of bullying at more than $200-billion a year.

A study by Dr. Noreen Tehrani, who counselled victims of violence in Northern Ireland, and soldiers returning from overseas combat and victims of workplace, concluded that bullying exhibited similar psychological and physical symptoms — nightmares and extreme anxiety, and a variety of physical ailments.

Swedish researchers, led by Anna Nyberg at the Stress Institute in Stockholm, have published a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine on the issue of leaders’ behaviour and employee health. They studied more than 3,100 men in a 10-year period in typical work settings. They found that employees who had managers who were incompetent, inconsiderate, secretive and uncommunicative, the employees were 60% more likely to suffer a heart attack or other life-threatening cardiac condition. By contrast, employees who worked with “good” leaders were 40% less likely to suffer heart problems.  Nyberg said, “for all those who work under managers who they perceive behave strangely, or in any way they don’t understand, and they feel stressed, the study confirms this develops into a health risk.”

A study of 6,000 British office workers found employees who felt that their supervisors treated them fairly had a 30% lower risk of heart disease. A 2008 meta-analysis of the connection between health and leadership by Jana Kuoppala and associates concluded that good leadership was associated with a 27% reduction in sick leave and a 46% reduction in disability pensions. The same study concluded that employees with good leaders were 40% more likely to report the highest levels of psychological well being including lower levels of anxiety and depression.

In an article by Richard Williams, Wallace Higgins and Harvey Greenberg, published in the Boston Globe, they cited numerous research studies regarding leadership style and the health of employees. They concluded “your boss can cause you stress, induce depression and anxiety or even trigger the onset of serious illnesses. It is not just bad managers who can negatively affect employee health, but it is also the half-hearted and mediocre who put employees on the sick list.” And the cost is huge in terms of lost productivity, health care costs and employee turnover. The authors argue that a whole new field of litigation in the U.S. is developing “lawsuits against ‘bad bosses’ and the organizations that negligently allow them to supervise.”

According to the WBI, 40% of the targets of bulling never told their employers, and of those that did, 62% reported they were ignored. According to Dr. Gary Namie, Research Director at WBI, and author The Bully at Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity on the Job, 81% of employers are either doing nothing to address bullying or actually resisting action when requested to do something.

As John Baldoni, author of nine books on leadership, including Lead By Example, and Lead Your Boss, says bullies may “get employees to comply, but not to commit. Compliance is okay for day-to-day operations, but when an organization is faced with a challenge or even a crisis, you need employees who are willing to go the extra mile. People who work for a bully are biding their time looking for a way out, or a time when the bully will be replaced.”

What kind of people are bullies in the workplace?

“Bullies typically possess a Type A personality; they are competitive and appear driven, operating as they do from a sense of urgency,” says Lisa M.S. Barrow, author of In Darkness Light Dawns: Exposing Workplace Bullying. “This has its advantages in the workplace but the shadow side of Type A is the tendency to become frustrated and verbally abusive when things don’t go according to plan. Impatience and temper tantrums are common for Type A individuals who haven’t engaged in t the personal growth required to gain self-awareness, maintain emotional stability and consider situations from multiple points of view.…  Above all, bullies crave power and control, and this craving underlies much of what they do, say and fail to do and say. Bullies use charm and deceit to further their own ends and seem oblivious to the trail of damage they leave behind, as long as their appetites for power and control are fulfilled.”


Contrary to conventional wisdom, the targets of office bullies are not the new, inexperienced and less confident employees. According to research, they are the highly competent, accomplished, experienced and popular employees. And making them targets makes it harder for them to get notice or reprieve. Independent, experienced workers pose the greatest threat to the bullies. And when bullies find targets that refuse to be controlled and intimidated, they escalate their behaviour.


Layoffs and financial pressures on managers to perform in the recent recession may have exacerbated the bullying problem. Research conducted by Wayne Hochwarter and Samantha Englehardt at Florida State University concluded that “employer-employee relations are at one of the lowest points in history,” with a significant decline in basic civility.

Is bullying a reflection of a general decline in civility? In poll after poll, Americans have voiced concern over the erosion of civility. According to a poll by Weber Shandwick, 65% of Americans say the lack of civility is a major problem in the country and feel the negative tenor has worsened during the financial crisis and recession.


So what’s being done about workplace bullying? In the U.S., 20 states are exploring legislation that would put bullying on the legal radar screen. In Canada, the provinces of Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec have passed legislation that addresses workplace bullying, although both countries are far behind some European nations and New Zealand.

One thing is certain; the problem of workplace bullying will not go away anytime soon and may never be fully remedied until enough people call for a return to a culture of civility, and demand  governments and companies take action.

To make a difference in your state visit

If you feel you have been a target or victim of bullying in the work place, I can help. Please call or email for a confidential conversation. 703.385.0011


“Only the best are bullied.” by Tim Field

With Blessings,

Debra Dennis, CHHC, AADP

Indigo Lifestyle Solutions, Inc.

21 Responses to Have Your Ever Been Bullied at Work?

  1. saftpressen May 30, 2012 at 7:07 am #

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    • Nixon August 24, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

      This more than likely would never hapepn with homeschooled children. They wouldn’t even think of doing it because it would never accur to them. Homeschoolers think more like adults do that way, because they live in a more mature free world. In government factory modeled Indian-caste, Prussian modeled schools, you have kids raising kids for twelve years long of their most informative years. And you loose all your rights, kids have to ask to go to the bathroom for goodness sakes. That’s wrong.

      • Bbiita November 8, 2012 at 6:39 am #

        Agrees with Rugby 100% As a former recevier of bullying, but now a martial arts teacher. It’s very important that parents and trusted adults take claim seriously and investigate Always tell an adult or teacher, even a Policeman Bullying is no joke, and names DO hurt just as much as fists

  2. personalized rings June 5, 2012 at 11:04 am #

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    • Jennifer August 24, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

      Great parenting!! One of the key coonnmepts to deterring bullying is the role parents take in teaching their children right from wrong. As a school employee who works very hard to keep all students safe, having a parent who is open-minded enough to see the occasional flaw in her own child(ren) makes my job a lot easier.Your children will be fine and their friends will be better because of your awareness as a parent.

  3. Ulises June 11, 2012 at 1:17 am #

    the reason why they pick on the psroen they pick on is because they may feel threatened by them or insecure. they figure that by verbally abusing that psroen, their self esteem gets lower so then the bully would feel better about themselves. or if they are insecure they would beat down the psroen physically,emotionally, or veribally so when they see that psroen is getting weaker/ affected by the bullys action, they feel better about themselves and gain a false high self esteem. people in the workforce always deal witht he stress of the job especially one that is competitive. they feel like thier workforce is the survior of the fittest and that they have to destory whoever is in thier way. ( bullying the psroen they feel is working better, or the popular nice one)

    • Tajana August 24, 2012 at 9:18 am #

      Im in high school now and i see peolpe gettin bullied everydayI just wish the teachers in our school do something but you cansay do but they really don’t .. My friend taris get bullied by half theSophomores and i do be trying 2 stop it but i cant take down all ofthem [] Reply:March 18th, 2011 at 11:29 am, That’s crazy and so not ok. Good for you for sticking up for your friend, I think you should keep doing that and even telling the principal or teachers IN WRITING. Sometimes adults will respond more when they know the complaint is being documented and tracked. Tell your friend Taris to hang in there, speak up and know that those bully sophomores are really probably just messed up in someway themselves. Like the saying goes, Hurt peolpe hurt peolpe. []

      • Andrei November 8, 2012 at 8:33 am #

        Great post, Claudia! This really bgrnis the point on home with discussing bullying as an allergy. And many of us have felt all of those symptoms. It’s important to stand up and do something about it rather than endure a cold .

  4. Bula Maupredi July 25, 2012 at 7:23 am #

    Enjoyed looking through this, very good stuff, thankyou .

    • Ronaldo November 8, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

      Bullying Requires Non-Education Professionals Bullying requires non-education prlnfssioeaos to step in.Unfortunately, education prlnfssioeaos, as experienced as theyare and have to be with education-related matters, do not havethe know-how or experience needed to deal with radicallyuncontrolled bullying. However, there are police (men and women), psychologists (men and women), and therapists (men and women) who are not in the business of education; but who are trained to deal with the deviant behavior expressed by a true bully. A 1-800 number for bully victims that is easy to remember should be plastered everywhere in schools from the classrooms to the halls to the restrooms to the playgrounds to the busses and athletic fields as gentle reminders to students thinking of getting out of line (bullying). This no-nonsense number would direct the bully victim to immediate help by trained prlnfssioeaos who will evaluate professionally the bully’s mental health and stable or unstable home situation; deal with the bully’s deviant behavior; and help the bully victim through the merciless trauma/abuse he/she experienced all without repercussions to the actual victim. Of course, legal action and prosecution against the bully (not the school) go without saying. As an added incentive, the school administration may dial the number from the school office. Often, but not always, the bully is a repeat offender. Reporting the crime helps authorities build a case against said bully in court holding the bully accountable for his/her actions.

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