Workplace bullying occurs when an employee experiences a persistent pattern of mistreatment from others in the workplace that causes harm. Workplace bullying can include such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation. This type of workplace aggression is particularly difficult because, unlike the typical forms of school bullying, workplace bullies often operate within the established rules and policies of their organization and their society. Bullying in the workplace is in the majority of cases reported as having been perpetrated by someone in authority over the target. However, bullies can also be peers, and on occasion can be subordinates. Recent research (2010) has also investigated the impact of the larger organizational context on bullying as well as the group-level processes that impact on the incidence, and maintenance of bullying behaviour. Bullying can be covert or overt. It may be missed by superiors or known by many throughout the organization. Negative effects are not limited to the targeted individuals, and may lead to a decline in employee morale and a change in organizational culture.
- 1 Definitions
- 2 Statistics
- 3 Relationship among participants
- 4 Organizational culture
- 5 Culture of fear
- 6 Typology of bullying behaviours
- 7 Abusive workplace behaviours
- 8 Specific professions
- 9 Forms
- 10 Emotional intelligence
- 11 Versus workplace incivility
- 12 Personality disorders
- 13 Health effects
- 14 Financial costs to employers
- 15 Culture/organizational culture
- 16 Legal aspects
- 17 See also
- 18 References
- 19 Further reading
- 20 External links
While there is no universally accepted formal definition of workplace bullying, several researchers have endeavoured to define it. Some categorize all harmful boss behaviour and actions of malintent directed at employees as bullying. Bullying behaviours may be couched in humiliation and hazing rites and iterative programs or protocols framed as being in the best interests of employee development and coaching. Others separate behaviours into different patterns, labeling a subset of those behaviours as bullying, explaining that there are different ways to deal effectively with specific patterns of behaviour. Some workplace bullying is defined as involving an employee's immediate supervisor, manager or boss in conjunction with other employees as complicit, while other workplace bullying is defined as involving only an employee’s immediate supervisor, manager, or boss.
- A relatively comprehensive definition from Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf and Cooper (2003; pp. 15) "Bullying at work means harassing, offending, socially excluding someone or negatively affecting someone’s work tasks. In order for the label bullying (or mobbing) to be applied to a particular activity, interaction or process it has to occur repeatedly and regularly (e.g. weekly) and over a period of time (e.g. about six months). Bullying is an escalated process in the course of which the person confronted ends up in an inferior position and becomes the target of systematic negative social act.” It is relatively long definition comparing to the other works, but it is comprehensive which seems to sculpture all the aspects."
- According to Tracy, Lutgen-Sandvik, and Alberts, researchers associated with the Arizona State University's Project for Wellness and Work-Life, workplace bullying is most often "a combination of tactics in which numerous types of hostile communication and behaviour are used"
- Gary and Ruth Namie define workplace bullying as "repeated, health-harming mistreatment, verbal abuse, or conduct which is threatening, humiliating, intimidating, or sabotage that interferes with work or some combination of the three."
- Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik expands this definition, stating that workplace bullying is "persistent verbal and nonverbal aggression at work, that includes personal attacks, social ostracism, and a multitude of other painful messages and hostile interactions."
- In an effort to provide a more all-encompassing definition, and catch the attention of employers, Catherine Mattice and Karen Garman define workplace bullying as "systematic aggressive communication, manipulation of work, and acts aimed at humiliating or degrading one or more individual that create an unhealthy and unprofessional power imbalance between bully and target(s), result in psychological consequences for targets and co-workers, and cost enormous monetary damage to an organization’s bottom line"
- Employers can also be bullies. Bad employers use bullying strategically to rid the workplace of good employees to avoid a legal obligation, such as paying unemployment compensation or a worker’s compensation claim. Employers also use bullying tactics to drive out employees who demand legal pay or overtime or assert a legal right to organize collectively. The most common type of complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission involves retaliation, where an employer harasses or bullies an employee for objecting to illegal discrimination. Patricia Barnes, author of Surviving Bullies, Queen Bees & Psychopaths in the Workplace, argues that employers that bullies are a critical but often overlooked aspect of the problem in the United States.
Because it can occur in a variety of contexts and forms, it is also useful to define workplace bullying by the key features that these behaviours possess. Bullying is characterized by:
- Repetition (occurs regularly)
- Duration (is enduring)
- Escalation (increasing aggression)
- Power disparity (the target lacks the power to successfully defend themself).
- Attributed intent
This distinguishes bullying from isolated behaviours and other forms of job stress and allows the term workplace bullying to be applied in various contexts and to behaviours that meet these characteristics. Many observers agree that bullying is often a repeated behavior. However, some experts who have dealt with a great many people who report abuse also categorize some once-only events as bullying, for example with cases where there appear to be severe sequelae. Expanding the common understanding of bullying to include single, severe episodes also parallels the legal definitions of sexual harassment in the US.
According to Pamela Lutgin-Sandvik, the lack of unifying language to name the phenomenon of workplace bullying is a problem because without a unifying term or phrase, individuals have difficulty naming their experiences of abuse, and therefore have trouble pursuing justice against the bully. Unlike sexual harassment, which named a specific problem and is now recognized in law of many countries (including U.S.), workplace bullying is still being established as a relevant social problem and is in need of a specific vernacular.
Euphemisms intended to trivialize bullying and its impact on bullied people: incivility, disrespect, difficult people, personality conflict, negative conduct, ill treatment.
There is not the exact definition about the bullying behaviors in workplace. So when a researcher want to investigate bullying behaviors in workplace, he or she would like to label it. That is the reason why we can see different terms of this behaviors in different academic papers. For example, mobbing is commonly used by researchers in France and Germany. Harassment is the term preferred in Finland. And in USA, aggression and emotional abuse are used. In additional, workplace bullying is primarily used in Australia, UK, and Northern Europe. The decision by researchers to use different terms stems from the type of behavior that is reported to occur most frequently within the country in which bullying is being investigated. For example, in Germany, where the term mobbing is used, bullying is frequently reported to be perpetrated by a “mob” of bullies, rather than a single bully; a phenomenon which is not shared by other countries. On the other hand, relatively high incidence of violent in workplace behavior was mainly focused by researchers.
Statistics from the 2007 WBI-Zogby survey show that 13% of U.S. employees report being bullied currently, 24% say they have been bullied in the past and an additional 12% say they have witnessed workplace bullying. Nearly half of all American workers (49%) report that they have been affected by workplace bullying, either being a target themselves or having witnessed abusive behavior against a co-worker.
Although socio-economic factors may play a role in the abuse, researchers from the Project for Wellness and Work-Life suggest that "workplace bullying, by definition, is not explicitly connected to demographic markers such as sex and ethnicity" (p. 151). Because 1 in 10 employees experiences workplace bullying, the prevalence of this issue is cause for great concern, even as initial data about this issue are reviewed.
According to the 2010 National Health Interview Survey Occupational Health Supplement (NHIS-OHS), the national prevalence rate for workers reporting having been threatened, bullied, or harassed by anyone on the job was 8%.
In 2008, Dr. Judy Fisher-Blando wrote a doctoral research dissertation on Aggressive Behavior: Workplace Bullying and Its Effect on Job Satisfaction and Productivity. The scientific study determined that almost 75% of employees surveyed had been affected by workplace bullying, whether as a target or a witness. Further research showed the types of bullying behaviour, and organizational support.
In terms of gender, the Workplace Bullying Institute (2007) states that women appear to be at greater risk of becoming a bullying target, as 57% of those who reported being targeted for abuse were women. Men are more likely to participate in aggressive bullying behavior (60%), however when the bully is a woman her target is more likely to be a woman as well (71%).
In the research of Samnani and Singh (2012), it concludes the findings from previous 20 years literature and claims that in terms of the gender factor, inconsistent findings could not support the differences across gender.
The NHIS-OHS confirms the previous finding, as higher prevalence rates for being threatened, bullied, or harassed were identified for women (9%) compared with men (7%).
Race also may play a role in the experience of workplace bullying. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (2007), the comparison of reported combined bullying (current + ever bullied) prevalence percentages reveals the pattern from most to least:
- Hispanics (52.1%)
- Blacks (46%)
- Whites (33.5%)
- Asian (30.6%)
The reported rates of witnessing bullying were:
- Asian (28.5%)
- Blacks (21.1%)
- Hispanics (14%)
- Whites (10.8%)
The percentages of those reporting that they have neither experienced nor witnessed mistreatment were
- Asians (57.3%)
- Whites (49.7%)
- Hispanics (32.2%)
- Blacks (23.4%)
Higher prevalence rates for experiencing a hostile work environment were identified for divorced or separated workers compared to married workers, widowed workers, and never married workers .
Higher prevalence rates for experiencing a hostile work environment were identified for workers with only a high school diploma or GED and workers with some college education compared to workers with less than a high school education.
Lower prevalence rates for experiencing a hostile work environment were identified for workers aged 65 and older compared to workers in other age groups.
With respect to the age, conflict findings have been reported. However, in the study of Einarsen and Skogstad (1996), it indicates the older employees tends to be more likely to be bullied than the young ones.
Among industry groups, workers with higher prevalence rates of a hostile work environment, compared to all adults employed at some time in the past 12 months (8%), were in Public Administration (16%) and Retail Trade industries (10%). Lower prevalence rates of a hostile work environment were reported among those working in Construction (5%); Finance and Insurance (5%); Manufacturing (5%); and Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services industries (6%).
For occupational groups, workers in Protective Service reported a higher prevalence rate (25%) of hostile work environments compared to the prevalence rate for all adults employed at some time in the past 12 months. Workers in Community and Social Service occupations also experienced a relatively high rate (16%). Lower prevalence rates were observed among Architecture and Engineering (4%), Computer and Mathematical (4%), Business and Financial Operations (5%), and Construction and Extraction (5%) occupations.
Relationship among participants
From the research by Hoel, it is clear that most of the perpetrators are supervisors, the second one is peers, subordinates and customers follow which found from Hoel's research. So three main relationships among the participants in workplace bullying can be indicated as:
- between supervisor and subordinate
- among co-workers
- employees and customers
- between organization (organizational institution or system).
Bullying behaviors shows as an abuse of power between supervisors and subordinates in workplace. Supervisors release their own pressure to bully subordinates with their higher power due to workplace bullying. It is always related to management style of the supervisors. An authoritative management style is accompanied by a kind of bullying behaviors which can make subordinates fear so that supervisors can become authority themselves. On the other hand, some researchers agree that bullying behaviors is a positive performance in workplace. Workplace bullying can attribute to the organizational power and control. It is also a representative of power and control. if an organization want to improve this situation in workplace, strategies and policies must be improved. Lacking of policy in bullying like low-monitoring or no punishment will result in tolerating in organization. Bullying behaviors in workplace also exist among colleagues. They can be either the ‘target’ or perpetrator. If workplace bullying happens among the co-workers, witness will take side between target and perpetrator. Perpetrators always win, because witnesses do not want to be the next target. This way, it does encourage perpetrators to continue this behavior. In addition, the sense of the injustice by targets might become another perpetrator to bully other colleagues who have less power than them. Varitia who is a workplace bullying researcher investigate that 20% of interviewees who experienced workplace bullying thought the reason why they became a target is they are different from others. In a word, bullying can increase more bullying in workplace. The third relationship in workplace is between employees and customers. Although it takes a little part, it play a significant role about the efficiency of the organization. If an employee work with unhealthy emotion, it will affect the quality of the service seriously. This relationship is closely related to emotion label. Lots of examples can be listed from our daily life, like customers are ignored by shop assistants, patients are shouted by nurses in the hospital and so on. On the other hand, customers might despise the employees, especially blue-collar job, such as gas station assistants. Bullying behaviors in workplace can generate effect mutually between the employees and customers. The Fourth relationship in workplace is between organization or its institution or its system and the employees. In the article of Andreas Liefooghe (2012), it notes that a lot of employees describe their organization as bully. It is not environmental factors facilitating the bullying but it is the bullying itself. Tremendous power imbalance enables company to "legitimately exercise" their power in the way of monitoring and controlling as bullying. The terms of the bullying "traditionally" implies to interpersonal relationship. Talking about bullying in interpersonal level is legitimate, but talking about the exploitation, justice and subjugation as bullying of organization would be "relatively ridiculous" or not taken as serious. Bullying is sometimes more than purely interpersonal issue.
Bullying is seen to be prevalent in organisations where employees and managers feel that they have the support, or at least implicitly the blessing, of senior managers to carry on their abusive and bullying behaviour. Furthermore, new managers will quickly come to view this form of behaviour as acceptable and normal if they see others get away with it and are even rewarded for it.
When bullying happens at the highest levels, the effects may be far reaching. That people may be bullied irrespective of their organisational status or rank, including senior managers, indicates the possibility of a negative domino effect, where bullying may be cascaded downwards as the targeted supervisors might offload their own aggression on their subordinates. In such situations, a bullying scenario in the boardroom may actually threaten the productivity of the entire organisation.
Culture of fear
Ashforth discussed potentially destructive sides of leadership and identified what he referred to as petty tyrants, i.e.leaders who exercise a tyrannical style of management, resulting in a climate of fear in the workplace. Partial or intermittent negative reinforcement can create an effective climate of fear and doubt. When employees get the sense that bullies “get away with it”, a climate of fear may be the result. Several studies have confirmed a relationship between bullying, on the one hand, and an autocratic leadership and an authoritarian way of settling conflicts or dealing with disagreements, on the other. An authoritarian style of leadership may create a climate of fear, where there is little or no room for dialogue and where complaining may be considered futile.
In a study of public-sector union members, approximately one in five workers reported having considered leaving the workplace as a result of witnessing bullying taking place. Rayner explained these figures by pointing to the presence of a climate of fear in which employees considered reporting to be unsafe, where bullies had “got away with it” previously despite management knowing of the presence of bullying.
Typology of bullying behaviours
- Threat to professional status – including belittling opinions, public professional humiliation, accusations regarding lack of effort, intimidating use of discipline or competence procedures
- Threat to personal standing – including undermining personal integrity, destructive innuendo and sarcasm, making inappropriate jokes about target, persistent teasing, name calling, insults, intimidation
- Isolation – including preventing access to opportunities, physical or social isolation, withholding necessary information, keeping the target out of the loop, ignoring or excluding
- Overwork – including undue pressure, impossible deadlines, unnecessary disruptions.
- Destabilisation – including failure to acknowledge good work, allocation of meaningless tasks, removal of responsibility, repeated reminders of blunders, setting target up to fail, shifting goal posts without telling the target.
Abusive workplace behaviours
According to Bassman, common abusive workplace behaviours are:
- Disrespecting and devaluing the individual, often through disrespectful and devaluing language or verbal abuse
- Overwork and devaluation of personal life (particularly salaried workers who are not compensated)
- Harassment through micromanagement of tasks and time
- Overevaluation and manipulating information (for example concentration on negative characteristics and failures, setting up subordinate for failure).
- Managing by threat and intimidation
- Stealing credit and taking unfair advantage
- Preventing access to opportunities
- Downgrading an employee's capabilities to justify downsizing
- Impulsive destructive behaviour
- Having opinions and views ignored
- Withholding information which affects the target's performance
- Being exposed to an unmanageable workload
- Being given tasks with unreasonable or impossible targets or deadlines
- Being ordered to do work below competence
- Being ignored or facing hostility when the target approaches
- Being humiliated or ridiculed in connection with work
- Excessive monitoring of a person's work (see micromanagement)
- Spreading gossip
- Insulting or offensive remarks made about the target's person (i.e. habits and background), attitudes or private life
- Having key areas of responsibility removed or replaced with more trivial or unpleasant tasks
According to Sean Kennedy, more common abusive workplace behaviours include:
- Being ridiculed because of the volume, tone, enunciation, projection, or clarity of one's voice when communicating verbally
Bullying in academia
Several aspects of academia, such as the generally decentralized nature of academic institutions and the particular recruitment and career procedures, lend themselves to the practice of bullying and discourage its reporting and mitigation.
Bullying in blue collar jobs
Bullying has been identified as prominent in blue collar jobs including on the oil rigs and in mechanic shops and machine shops. It is thought that intimidation and fear of retribution cause decreased incident reports. This is also an industry dominated by males, where disclosure of incidents are seen as effeminate, which, in the socioeconomic and cultural milieu of such industries, would likely lead to a vicious circle. This is often used in combination with manipulation and coercion of facts to gain favour among higher ranking administrators.[non-primary source needed]
Bullying in information technology
A culture of bullying is common in information technology (IT), leading to high sickness rates, low morale, poor productivity and high staff turnover. Deadline-driven project work and stressed-out managers take their toll on IT workers.
Bullying in medicine
Bullying in the medical profession is common, particularly of student or trainee doctors. It is thought that this is at least in part an outcome of conservative traditional hierarchical structures and teaching methods in the medical profession which may result in a bullying cycle.
Bullying in nursing
Bullying has been identified as being particularly prevalent in the nursing profession although the reasons are not clear. It is thought that relational aggression (psychological aspects of bullying such as gossipping and intimidation) are relevant. Relational aggression has been studied amongst girls but not so much amongst adult women.
Bullying in teaching
School teachers are commonly the subject of bullying but they are also sometimes the originators of bullying within a school environment.
- Serial bullying — the source of all dysfunction can be traced to one individual, who picks on one employee after another and destroys them, then moves on. Probably the most common type of bullying.
- Secondary bullying — the pressure of having to deal with a serial bully causes the general behaviour to decline and sink to the lowest level.
- Pair bullying — this takes place with two people, one active and verbal, the other often watching and listening.
- Gang bullying or group bullying — is a serial bully with colleagues. Gangs can occur anywhere, but flourish in corporate bullying climates. It is often called mobbing and usually involves scapegoating and victimisation.
- Vicarious bullying — two parties are encouraged to fight. This is the typical "triangulation" where the aggression gets passed around.
- Regulation bullying — where a serial bully forces their target to comply with rules, regulations, procedures or laws regardless of their appropriateness, applicability or necessity.
- Residual bullying — after the serial bully has left or been fired, the behavior continues. It can go on for years.
- Legal bullying — the bringing of a vexatious legal action to control and punish a person. It is one of the nastiest forms of bullying.
- Pressure bullying or unwitting bullying — having to work to unrealistic time scales and/or inadequate resources.
- Corporate bullying — where an employer abuses an employee with impunity, knowing the law is weak and the job market is soft.
- Organizational bullying — a combination of pressure bullying and corporate bullying. Occurs when an organization struggles to adapt to changing markets, reduced income, cuts in budgets, imposed expectations and other extreme pressures.
- Institutional bullying — entrenched and is accepted as part of the culture.
- Client bullying — an employee is bullied by those they serve, for instance subway attendants or public servants.
- Cyber bullying — the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviour by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others.
Adult bullying can come in an assortment of forms. There are about five distinctive types of adult bullies. A narcissistic bully is described as a self-centered person whose egotism is frail and possesses the need to put others down. An impulsive bully is someone who acts on bullying based on stress or being upset at the moment. A physical bully uses physical injury and the threat of harm to abuse their victims, while a verbal bully uses demeaning and cynicism to debase their victims. Lastly, a secondary adult bully is portrayed as a person that did not start the initial bullying but participates in afterwards to avoid being bullied themselves ("Adult Bullying"). 
Workplace bullying is reported to be far more prevalent than perhaps commonly thought. For some reason, workplace bullying seems to be particularly widespread in healthcare organizations; 80% of nurses report experiencing workplace bullying. Similar to the school environment for children, the work environment typically places groups of adult peers together in a shared space on a regular basis. In such a situation, social interactions and relationships are of great importance to the function of the organizational structure and in pursuing goals. The emotional consequences of bullying put an organization at risk of losing victimized employees. Bullying also contributes to a negative work environment, is not conducive to necessary cooperation and can lessen productivity at various levels. Bullying in the workplace is associated with negative responses to stress. The ability to manage emotions, especially emotional stress, seems to be a consistently important factor in different types of bullying. The workplace in general can be a stressful environment, so a negative way of coping with stress or an inability to do so can be particularly damning. Workplace bullies may have high social intelligence and low emotional intelligence (EI). In this context, bullies tend to rank high on the social ladder and are adept at influencing others. The combination of high social intelligence and low empathy is conducive to manipulative behavior, such that Hutchinson (2013) describes workplace bullying to be. In working groups where employees have low EI, workers can be persuaded to engage in unethical behavior. With the bullies' persuasion, the work group is socialized in a way that rationalizes the behavior, and makes the group tolerant or supportive of the bullying. Hutchinson & Hurley (2013) make the case that EI and leadership skills are both necessary to bullying intervention in the workplace, and illustrates the relationship between EI, leadership and reductions in bullying. EI and ethical behavior among other members of the work team have been shown to have a significant impact on ethical behavior of nursing teams. Higher EI is linked to improvements in the work environment and is an important moderator between conflict and reactions to conflict in the workplace. The self-awareness and self-management dimensions of EI have both been illustrated to have strong positive correlations with effective leadership and the specific leadership ability to build healthy work environments and work culture.
Versus workplace incivility
Workplace bullying overlaps to some degree with workplace incivility but tends to encompass more intense and typically repeated acts of disregard and rudeness. Negative spirals of increasing incivility between organizational members can result in bullying, but isolated acts of incivility are not conceptually bullying despite the apparent similarity in their form and content. In case of bullying, the intent of harm is less ambiguous, an unequal balance of power (both formal and informal) is more salient, and the target of bullying feels threatened, vulnerable and unable to defend himself or herself against negative recurring actions.
In 2005, psychologists Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon at the University of Surrey, UK, interviewed and gave personality tests to high-level British executives and compared their profiles with those of criminal psychiatric patients at Broadmoor Hospital in the UK. They found that three out of eleven personality disorders were actually more common in executives than in the disturbed criminals. They were:
- Histrionic personality disorder: including superficial charm, insincerity, egocentricity and manipulation
- Narcissistic personality disorder: including grandiosity, self-focused lack of empathy for others, exploitativeness and independence.
- Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder: including perfectionism, excessive devotion to work, rigidity, stubbornness and dictatorial tendencies.
Industrial/organizational psychology research has also examined the types of bullying that exist among business professionals and the prevalence of this form of bullying in the workplace as well as ways to measure bullying empirically.
Narcissism, lack of self-regulation, lack of remorse and lack of conscience have been identified as traits displayed by bullies. These traits are shared with psychopaths, indicating that there is some theoretical cross-over between bullies and psychopaths. Bullying is used by corporate psychopaths as a tactic to humiliate subordinates. Bullying is also used as a tactic to scare, confuse and disorient those who may be a threat to the activities of the corporate psychopath Using meta data analysis on hundred of UK research papers, Boddy concluded that 36% of bullying incidents was caused by the presence of corporate psychopaths. According to Boddy there are two types of bullying:
- predatory bullying - the bully just enjoys bullying and tormenting vulnerable people for the sake of it
- instrumental bullying - the bullying is for a purpose, helping the bully achieve his goals.
A corporate psychopath uses instrumental bullying to further his goals of promotion and power as the result of causing confusion and divide and rule.
People with high scores on a psychopathy rating scale are more likely to engage in bullying, crime and drug use than other people. Hare and Babiak noted that about 29 per cent of corporate psychopaths are also bullies. Other research has also shown that people with high scores on a psychopathy rating scale were more likely to engage in bullying, again indicating that psychopaths tend to be bullies in the workplace.
A workplace bully or abuser will often have issues with social functioning. These types of people often have psychopathic traits that are difficult to identify in the hiring and promotion process. These individuals often lack anger management skills and have a distorted sense of reality. Consequently, when confronted with the accusation of abuse, the abuser is not aware that any harm was done.
In 2007, researchers Catherine Mattice and Brian Spitzberg at San Diego State University, USA, found that narcissism revealed a positive relationship with bullying. Narcissists were found to prefer indirect bullying tactics (such as withholding information that affects others' performance, ignoring others, spreading gossip, constantly reminding others of mistakes, ordering others to do work below their competence level, and excessively monitoring others' work) rather than direct tactics (such as making threats, shouting, persistently criticizing, or making false allegations). The research also revealed that narcissists are highly motivated to bully, and that to some extent, they are left with feelings of satisfaction after a bullying incident occurs.
According to Gary and Ruth Namie, as well as Tracy, et al., workplace bullying can harm the health of the targets of bullying. Organizations are beginning to take note of workplace bullying because of the costs to the organization in terms of the health of their employees.
According to scholars at The Project for Wellness and Work-Life at Arizona State University, "workplace bullying is linked to a host of physical, psychological, organizational, and social costs." Stress is the most predominant health effect associated with bullying in the workplace. Research indicates that workplace stress has significant negative effects that are correlated to poor mental health and poor physical health, resulting in an increase in the use of "sick days" or time off from work (Farrell & Geist-Martin, 2005).
The negative effects of bullying are so severe that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and even suicide are not uncommon. Tehrani found that 1 in 10 targets experience PTSD, and that 44% of her respondents experienced PTSD similar to that of battered women and victims of child abuse. Matthiesen and Einarsen found that up to 77% of targets experience PTSD.
In addition, co-workers who witness workplace bullying can also have negative effects, such as fear, stress, and emotional exhaustion. Those who witness repetitive workplace abuse often choose to leave the place of employment where the abuse took place. Workplace bullying can also hinder the organizational dynamics such as group cohesion, peer communication, and overall performance.
According to the 2012 survey conducted by Workplace Bullying Institute(516 respondents), Anticipation of next negative event is the most common psychological symptom of workplace bullying reported by 80%. Panic attacks afflict 52%. Half (49%) of targets reported being diagnosed with clinical depression. Sleep disruption, loss of concentration, mood swings, and pervasive sadness and insomnia were more common (ranging from 77% to 50%). Nearly three-quarters (71%) of targets sought treatment from a physician. Over half (63%) saw a mental health professional for their work-related symptoms. Respondents reported other symptoms that can be exacerbated by stress: Migraine headaches (48%), Irritable bowel disorder (37%), Chronic fatigue syndrome (33%) and Sexual dysfunction (27%).
Financial costs to employers
Several studies have attempted to quantify the cost of bullying to an organization.
- According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety Health (NIOSH) mental illness among the workforce leads to a loss in employment amounting to $19 billion and a drop in productivity of $3 billion (Sauter, et al., 1990).
- In a report commissioned by the ILO, Hoel, Sparks, & Cooper did a comprehensive analysis of the costs involved in bullying. They estimated a cost 1.88 Billion Pounds plus the cost of lost productivity.
- Based on replacement cost of those who leave as a result of being bullied or witnessing bullying, Rayner and Keashly (2004) estimated that for an organization of 1,000 people, the cost would be $1.2 million US. This estimate did not include the cost of litigation should victims bring suit against the organization.
- A recent Finnish study of more than 5,000 hospital staff found that those who had been bullied had 26% more certified sickness absence than those who were not bullied, when figures were adjusted for base-line measures one year prior to the survey (Kivimaki et al., 2000). According to the researchers these figures are probably an underestimation as many of the targets are likely to have been bullied already at the time the base-line measures were obtained.
Research by Dr Dan Dana has shown organizations suffer a large financial cost by not accurately managing conflict and bullying type behaviors. He has developed a tool to assist with calculating the cost of conflict. In addition, researcher Tamara Parris discusses how employers need to be more attentive in managing various discordant behaviors in the workplace, such as, bullying, as it not only creates a financial cost to the organization, but also erodes the company's human resources assets.
According to a research investigating the acceptability of the bullying behavior across from different culture (Power et al., 2013), it clearly shows that culture could also serve as an influencing factor. The difference on the cultural dimension across different cultures could affect the perception on the acceptable behavior. National-level factors, such as culture, may also represent a predictor of workplace bullying (Harvey et al., 2009; Hoel et al., 1999; Lutgen-Sandvik et al., 2007).
Humane orientation is negatively associated with the acceptability of bullying for WRB (Work related bullying). Performance orientation is positively associated with the acceptance of bullying. Future orientation is negatively associated with the acceptability of bullying. A culture of femininity suggests that individuals tend to value interpersonal relationships to a greater degree
Confucian Asia, which has a higher performance orientation than Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, bullying may be seen as an acceptable price to pay for performance. The value Latin America holds for personal connections with employees and the higher humane orientation of Sub-Saharan Africa may help to explain their distaste for bullying. A culture of individualism in the US implies competition, which may increase the likelihood of workplace bullying situations.
Each state has its own legislation.
In Queensland, legislation comes from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. If bullying (referred to as 'Workplace Harassment' in the Queensland subordinate legislation) endangers a worker's health causing stress or any other physical harm, an obligation holders under the 'Workplace Health and Safety Act, 1995' can be found liable for not providing a safe place for their employees to work. Queensland is one of only two States in Australia with a Code of Practice specifically for workplace bullying – 'The Prevention of Workplace Harassment Code of Practice, 2004' In Victoria, legislation comes from Worksafe Victoria. If bullying endangers a worker's health causing stress or any other physical harm, a corporation can be found liable for not providing a safe place for their employees to work.
Quebec The Canadian Province of Quebec passed legislation addressing workplace bullying on 1 June 2004. In its act representing labour standards, "psychological harassment" is prohibited. The Commission des normes du travail is the organization responsible for the application of this act.
Ontario Under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act 1979, all employers "take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker." This includes protecting them against the risk of workplace violence." The Act requires establishment of Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committees for larger employers.
Under the act, workplace violence is defined as "...the attempted or actual exercise of any intentional physical force that causes or may cause physical injury to a worker. It also includes any threats which give a worker reasonable grounds to believe he or she is at risk of physical injury". Currently, as the Act is written, the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act does not specifically cover the issue of psychological harassment.
On 13 December 2007, MPP Andrea Horwath introduced for first reading a new Bill, Bill-29, to make an amendment to the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. This Bill-29 is proposing "to protect workers from harassment and violence in the workplace" and will include protection from psychological abuse and bullying behaviors in the workplace in Ontario.
The Ontario OHS Act has been amended to include Bill 168, which came into force 15 June 2010. The amendment includes the protection of employees from psychological harassment, workplace violence, including domestic violence in the workplace.
Saskatchewan The Canadian Province of Saskatchewan made workplace bullying illegal in 2007 by passing The Occupational Health and Safety (Harassment Prevention) Amendment Act, 2007. The act broadened the definition of harassment, as defined in The Occupational Health and Safety Act 1993, to include psychological harassment.
Manitoba Manitoba enacted Bill 18 making bullying illegal and legitimized school "bullying clubs", Including gay-straight alliances, and other school anti-bullying clubs. http://web2.gov.mb.ca/bills/40-2/b018e.php
In Republic of Ireland, there is a Code of Practice for employers and employees on the prevention and resolution of bullying at work. The Code notes the provision in the Safety, Health and Welfare Act 2005 requiring employers to manage work activities to prevent improper conduct or behaviour at work. The Code of Practice provides both employer and employee with the means and the machinery to identify and to stamp out bullying in the workplace in a way which benefits all sides.
In Spain, within the public administration, activities including preventing access to opportunities, physical or social isolation, withholding necessary information, keeping the target out of the loop, ignoring or excluding, if permanent and for a long time, are considered labor harassment and have to be prosecuted.
Workplace bullying in Sweden is covered by the Ordinance of the Swedish National Board of Occupational Safety and Health containing Provisions on measures against Victimization at Work, which defines victimisation as "...recurrent reprehensible or distinctly negative actions which are directed against individual employees in an offensive manner and can result in those employees being placed outside the workplace community."
The act places the onus on employers to plan and organise work so as to prevent victimisation and to make it clear to employees that victimisation is not acceptable. The employer is also responsible for the early detection of signs of victimisation, prompt counter measures to deal with victimisation and making support available to employees who have been targeted.
In the United Kingdom, although bullying is not specifically mentioned in workplace legislation, there are means to obtain legal redress for bullying. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 is a recent addition to the more traditional approaches using employment-only legislation. Notable cases include Majrowski v Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust  wherein it was held that an employer is vicariously liable for one employee's harassment of another, and Green v DB Group Services (UK) Ltd, where a bullied worker was awarded over £800,000 in damages. In the latter case, at paragraph 99, the judge Mr Justice Owen said,
"...I am satisfied that the behaviour amounted to a deliberate and concerted campaign of bullying within the ordinary meaning of that term."
Bullying behaviour breaches other UK laws. An implied term of every employment contract in the UK is that parties to the contract have a (legal) duty of trust and confidence to each other. Bullying, or an employer tolerating bullying, typically breaches that contractual term. Such a breach creates circumstances entitling an employee to terminate his or her contract of employment without notice, which can lead to a finding by an Employment Tribunal of unfair dismissal, colloquially called constructive dismissal. An employee bullied in response to asserting a statutory right can be compensated for the detriment under Part V of the Employment Rights Act 1996, and if dismissed, Part X of the same Act provides that the dismissal is automatically unfair. Where a person is bullied on grounds of sex, race or disability et al., it is outlawed under anti-discrimination laws.
It was argued, following the obiter comments of Lord Hoffmann in Johnson v Unisys Ltd in March 2001, that claims could be made before an Employment Tribunal for injury to feelings arising from unfair dismissal. It was re-established that this was not what the law provided, in Dunnachie v Kingston upon Hull City Council, July 2004 wherein the Lords confirmed that the position established in Norton Tool v Tewson in 1972, that compensation for unfair dismissal was limited to financial loss alone. The compensatory award element for "ordinary" unfair dismissal is subject to a statutory cap set, from February 2014, at the lower of £76574 or 12 months gross pay. Discriminatory dismissal continues to attract compensation for injury to feelings and financial loss, and there is no statutory cap.
Access to justice in the UK is via self-representation at a tribunal, via a no-win no-fee lawyer, or via insurance or trade union lawyers. Since the Access to Justice act, "collective conditional fees" have blurred the distinction causing controversy for example in the case of Unison v Jervis.
In the United States, comprehensive workplace bullying legislation has not been passed by the federal government or by any U.S. state, but since 2003 many state legislatures have considered bills. As of April 2009, 16 U.S. states have proposed legislation; these are:
- Nevada (2009)
- Illinois (2009)
- Utah (2009)
- New Jersey (2007)
- Washington (2007, 2005)
- New York (2006)
- Vermont (2007)
- Oregon (2007, 2005)
- Montana (2007)
- Connecticut (2007)
- Hawaii (2007, 2006, 2005, 2004)
- Oklahoma (2007, 2004)
- Kansas (2006)
- Missouri (2006)
- Massachusetts (2005)
- California (2003)
These workplace bullying bills would typically have allowed employees to sue their employers for creating an "abusive work environment," and most have been supported by the notion that laws against workplace bullying are necessary to protect public health. Many of the above bills are based upon the proposed Healthy Workplace Bill. This proposed bill contains several restrictive provisions not found in workplace anti-bully legislation adopted in other countries.
Despite the lack of any federal or state law specifically on workplace bullying, some targets of bullying have prevailed in lawsuits that allege alternative theories, such as Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress and Assault.
Although most U.S. states operate primarily under the doctrine of at-will employment (which, in theory, allows an employer to fire an employee for any reason or no reason at all), American workers have gained significant legal leverage through discrimination and harassment laws, workplace safety laws, union-protection laws. etc., such that it is illegal under federal and most states' laws to fire employees for many reasons. For example, these employment laws typically forbid retaliation for good faith complaints or the exercise of legal rights such as the right to organize a union. Discrimination and harassment laws enable employees to sue for creating a "hostile work environment," which can include bullying, but the bullying/hostility usually is tied in some way to a characteristic protected under the discrimination/harassment law, such as race, sex, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, etc.
People can take legal action if specific action of workplace bullying is violated existing law or if it is recognized that laborer who is bullied in workplace suffer industrial accident, but generally it is hard to confirm whether it is illegal or not. Fundamentally, industrial accident can be approved when the accident have task correlation. However, it is hard to say that bullying is related with work. Besides bullying could be occurred in diverse places such as cafeteria, commuting bus, get -together so the task correlation is not likely to be approved. There is, however, a case about recognition of industrial accident related with workplace bullying. The court said that if laborer received treatment due to workplace bullying, it is an industrial accident and the person can take legal action.
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