Bullying is a major problem in schools across the country but if you thought that bullying ended once school ended, think again. Bullying behavior continues after adolescence and into adulthood, and workplace bullying is equally concerning. While there are many programs available to help educators stop bullying in schools, there are few resources available to businesses. However, the increased awareness of workplace bullying is helping bring about change as states are beginning to look at anti-bullying laws as a way to curb the issue.

According to a 2010 research survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI):

  • 35 percent of workers surveyed personally experienced bullying behavior while on the job
  • 62 percent of the bullies are men while 58 percent of the targets are women
  • 80 percent of the time a female bully targets another female
  • 68 percent of bullying is same-gender harassment
Workplace bullying leads to employee stress and that can impact workplace productivity, quality of work, and it can have negative financial impacts on the victim. In a survey conducted earlier this year, 15 percent of those bullied in the workplace left work early on disability or took an early retirement; 18 percent used a combination of short-term disability, long-term disability or both; and nearly 10 percent used unpaid Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) time because of stress-related concerns.

Obviously workplace bullying is a concern to the workers, but what does management feel about the issue?  In a survey conducted on Jan. 21, 315 business leaders responded to the question “Which of the following best describes your opinion of “workplace bullying” (repeated abusive conduct, “status-blind harassment” that is currently legal)”; 65 leaders responded ‘Not Sure’ but the results of the other 250 respondents show that business leaders are also concerned about workplace bullying:

  • 68 percent – ‘It is a serious problem.’
  • 17 percent – ‘Never heard of it.’
  • 15 percent – ‘It is irrelevant, a non-issue, bullying affects only children.’
While nearly 7 out of 10 business leaders considered it a serious problem, 3 out of 10 are clueless, at least in my opinion. Workplace bullying is an issue, and how a leader could respond that he’s never even heard of it is just ludicrous. Those who consider it to be a childhood issue are likely bullies themselves.  

So, what can be done about the issue? Anti-bullying laws are certainly a good place to start. Since 2003, 23 states have introduced the Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB), a bill designed to eliminate workplace bullying. A few key components from the HWB include defining an ‘abusive work environment’, the HWB holds the employer accountable for workplace bullying, legislation allows employers to terminate or otherwise sanction bullies and it allows victims to seek financial compensation for the bullying.

Unfortunately, not a single state has passed healthy workplace legislation. As of Feb. 19, 2013 eight states have active HWB legislation:  Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Vermont and West Virginia.

Have you been a victim of workplace bullying or have you witnessed a bullying incident at work?

1 in 3 workers victim of workplace bullying
Bullying isn't just a problem for middle school and high school students; bullying behavior continues into adulthood and is a concern in the workplace.