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Further facts and statistics about bullying in the workplace can be
obtained from the latest research by Know
Bull! in the 17-page, Extent & Effects of Workplace Bullying Survey
Report. A 2-page Summary of Key Findings is also available for download.)
research conducted by Know
Bull! not only supports current
workplace bullying findings, but reveals alarming information about
staff suicide resulting from the effects of workplace bullying;
and the imperative for workplace bullying having its own ‘criminal
category’ via the introduction of a ‘new’ statutory course of action encompassing the notion of 'the deliberate and/or intentional infliction of a hostile work
environment'...under which organisations, and workplace bullies could be prosecuted.
in the workplace - on the increase; largely 'unaddressed'; and
wreaking 'havoc' on staff, and company and
in the workplace not only affects staff — it can also affect
organisations in their ability to operate. Yet despite this, research
indicates that far from being curbed — bullying in the workplace is on
the increase. Even as far back as 2001, Drake Personnel, one of
Australia's leading employment agencies said in an interview
that, "the antics of one serial bully in the workplace had the
potential to reduce the performance of their victims by half, and that
of other employees by up to 33%." [17
fact, in 2005 WorkCover (ACT) estimated the dollar 'cost' of workplace bullying saying, "The financial cost of workplace bullying to business in Australia is
estimated to be between $6 billion and $13 billion a year." This includes
indirect costs, such as absenteeism, labour turnover, loss of productivity and legal costs.
Accordingly, "the average cost for a stress claim is $41,186 compared to $23,441 for a physical injury claim."
Australian Human Rights Commission believes that the 'cost' could be
even higher, with their online 'Workplace Bullying' fact sheet
estimating that "workplace bullying costs Australian employers between $6 - $36 billion dollars every year when hidden and lost opportunity costs are considered."
Human Rights Commission].
groundbreaking research in the US by the Workplace Bullying
Institute revealed some disturbing facts about the prevalence of
workplace bullying and its effects. One of the major findings of the 2007 U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey —
the largest scientific survey of bullying in the US — was that
"Bullying is 4 (four) times more prevalent than illegal, discriminatory
harassment," which includes such things as discrimination due to race, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, or age.
findings included that the 'stereotype' of the 'bully boss' was very
real, with 72% of bullies being bosses, and 55% of those bullied being
rank-and-file workers; and that with regard to turnover "40% of bullied workers voluntarily
leave", while "Targets lose their jobs to make the bullying stop in
77% of cases."
Coincidentally, the existence of the 'bully
boss' is also supported by other organisations and campaigns such as
the UK's 'Ban Bullying at Work' campaign, which stated that "Bullies tend to be in a position of
Oct 2007]; and by the latest
research conducted by Know Bull!
which found that "an ‘active’ bully
exists in 66.6% of workplaces - and is more likely to be a boss "
[Extent and Effects of Workplace Bullying
Survey Report]. Disturbingly, the
Survey also found that 83.3% of these ‘boss bullies’ don’t act alone – preferring to operate as a bully group, or ‘mob’."
[Extent and Effects of Workplace Bullying
May 2010]. Interestingly, this 'bully
boss mob' mentality...where senior managers and/or board members
'protect' one another's backs and/or deny the existence of workplace
bullying...is highlighted in Australia's most publicised case of
Sexual Harassment, and Workplace Bullying - the David Jones $37million
law suit by a former employee.
one of the most salient findings of the U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey
is that "Bullies bully with near impunity, experiencing negative
consequences in only 23% of cases." [Sept 2007, U.S. Workplace Bullying
Survey]. The Know
Bull! Survey Report: Extent and Effects of Workplace Bullying
also found found that workplace bullies receive tacit approval to
continue their behaviour, with 50% of employers taking no action when
a workplace bullying claim is made, and a further 12.5% actually promoting the workplace bully.
It’s not unreasonable to suggest that these employers (a total of 62.5%) are simply
'adding' to the 'problem' of workplace bullying.
the workplace bully literature suggests "that the worse an offender a workplace bully is, the harder they can be to
cure", and that perhaps it may even be "impossible [to] help them learn how to mitigate or control, their behaviour. They can even have their behaviour reinforced if their employing institution rewards them with promotion or salary bonuses, or simply ignores the damage they are doing."
brief profile of a potential bully 'target' - far from being the
'spectacled, nerdy wimp' - they pose a perceived 'threat' to
contrast to the 'bully boss', the stereotype of the 'nerdy' bully
target' is far removed. While the 'targets' of workplace
bullies do share a number of common
traits generally paint 'targets' as being: ethical, just, fair,
well-liked, highly personable, strong, independent, intelligent and self-assured people.
Bullying Institute]. The Know
Bull! Survey: Extent and Effects of Workplace Bullying
also found certain characteristics in both workplace bullies, and
their 'targets', that correlate with the research by the Workplace
Bullying Institute [30
stated Dr Mark Hayes in an article in Webdiary
(Feb 2007), "the literature suggests that workplace bullies tend to be
threatened by their targets in various ways and to deal with the threat,
bullies seek to control, contain, or even remove the threat, all the while getting off on the torment they are causing. The threat
can actually be the target's productivity, skills, talent, popularity with
peers and even superiors, which, completely inadvertently, shows up the
bully's inadequacies. Like whistleblowers, the bully's target may well
have a strong conscience which all but drives them to speak and act truthfully because they cannot act in any other way. The target must be
put in their place."
Bullying (New Zealand) also emphasise the 'perception' of 'threat',
stating, "A Target is an individual who by accident has the desirable qualities of competence, networking and emotional intelligence. This individual is selected as an object towards which the Workplace Bully can direct an unrelenting stream of harm —
mainly subtle and some obvious — in order to reduce the Target’s performance and self esteem while increasing the Workplace Bully’s own view of her/his own self importance.
For the Workplace Bully, the Target is perceived as a threat." [Beyond
of the behaviours that comprise 'workplace bullying'...
There are various definitions of what constitutes 'workplace
bullying', although the general consensus is that the behaviour
• planned mistreatment in the form of verbal abuse; conduct that is
threatening, intimidating, or humiliating; or sabotage that interferes
with work (or any combination of these)
• 'repeated' and 'persistent' and not usually a 'one-off'
• the effects of the bullying are 'health harming' - either
physical, emotional or both.
repeated and persistent destructive process of attempts by one (or
several) person to torment, wear down, frustrate, get a reaction from
another or exclude him or her from the work environment. It is
treatment that provokes, pressures, frightens, intimidates and through
its repetition leads to devastating effects. [Brodsky, C.M. (1976). The
harassed worker. Toronto: Lexington Books]. [5
accumulation, over a long period of time of hostile proposals (and
behaviours) expressed by one or several people towards a third person
at work (the target) [Leyman, H. (1984). 'The silencing of a skilled
technician'. Working Environment, 4, 236–238, in Hazards
to health: The problem of workplace bullying]. [5
May 2007], and
• "any negative behaviour that demonstrates a lack of regard for other workers, including harassment, incivility, teasing, gossiping, purposely withholding business information, overruling decisions without a rationale, sabotaging team efforts, demeaning others and verbal intimidation."
[20 Nov 2007, PRNewswire,
bullying states that bullying behaviour can fall under any
combination of 5 'categories' of bullying behaviour, which include "threats to
professional status, threats to personal standing, isolation, overwork
and destabilisation." [Rayner, C., Hoel, H. & Cooper, C.L.
(2002). Workplace bullying. London: Taylor & Francis]. [5
Bullying said to be a key factor in up to 18.9 million working days
lost in UK...
According to a comment on the Workplace Prof Blog, "Recent
research suggests 18.9 million working days are lost each year as a
direct result of bullying at work, costing to the UK economy of £6
billion", further "90% of those absent from work due to bullying tell employers their absence was the result of some other kind of illness."
Aug 2008, UK].
in December 2007 by the UK 'Ban Bullying At Work Day' show that one in four people have been bullied at some point in their working lives, and new research indicates this figure may be as high as one in two.
Dec 2007, UK].\
sectors, such as teaching, appear to have an extraordinarily 'high'
concentration of bullying in the workplace — with new research by
Australia's University of New England (UNE) finding in an online
survey of both private and government schools — that 90% of teachers have been bullied by
colleagues. The survey, which sought input from teachers from throughout Australia,
also found " that a fifth of respondents had had their property damaged or had been physically
abused or threatened with violence", and that over 90% "had suffered mentally or physically because of abuse."
[30 Nov 2007, ABC
An online article of The British Psychological Society's publication
The Psychologist, supports the view that some sectors are more
prone than others, stating that "...certain occupational groups have also been identified as being more vulnerable to bullying than others. Various studies (Hoel & Cooper, 2000; McAvoy & Murtagh, 2003; Quinne, 1999; Westhuses, 2004) have shown that bullying is more prevalent within the prison service, the healthcare and education sectors and amongst postal and telecommunications workers."
[In Hazards to health: The problem of workplace bullying, 5
high 'cost' of workplace bullying - 18.9 million working days lost;
potentially $111 billion annually; 71.5 million workers affected - why companies and organisations
should take notice...
Putting the 'human' cost aside for a moment..."Bullying at work costs businesses £18bn every year," says Royal &
Sun Alliance (R&SA), the UK’s largest commercial
insurer. Further, R&SA stated that bullying in the workplace has
not only become a major cause of employee stress...it "loses industry 18.9 million working days every
year"; represents a financial 'cost' to individual companies of
8-10% of their annual profits; plus, it leaves companies open
to "the threat of expensive litigation". [7
The Workplace Law
Network website (a membership site for UK employers and managers, specialising in employment law, health and safety and premises
management), cites more recent research: "despite formal policies and government-backed schemes to tackle the problem," new research reveals that "Nearly two thirds of Britons (73%) have been bullied at work or seen someone else undergoing it...".
The Workplace Bullying
Institute (WBI), a Washington State-based non-profit group serving the U.S. and Canada, states
that around "37 percent of U.S. workers have reported being bullied on the job, and 49 percent say they have witnessed a bully in
action", representing a staggering 86% of the workforce
being affected by bullying in the workplace. The WBI, who defines bullying as "repeated, health-harming verbal abuse; threatening, humiliating or offensive behavior; and work interference, including sabotage, that
prevents work from getting done,'' estimates that as many as 71.5 million Americans are affected by bullying in the workplace. [24
potential dollar 'cost' to American based companies is even more
startling. With an estimated 1 million workers in the US absent daily due to
stress, Dr Paul Rosch, president of the American Institute of Stress (AIS),
said 'We estimate it [stress] costs American industry $300 billion a year
in terms of diminished productivity, employee turnover and
insurance." If we consider the 37%
of respondents to the Zogby Survey
who reported having been subject to sabotage, verbal abuse, threatening conduct, intimidation, or humiliation in the
workplace, and we surmise they would have indeed suffered
'stress' as result of these actions against them - then the potential
cost to American industry would be around $111 billion annually.
reality, is that people do not contribute their best when they fear harassment, bullying or abuse, plus companies risk replacement
costs when people leave, often face legal costs and suffer because of reduced productivity and commitment.
according to the Crisis Prevention Institute (USA).
"...research has clearly demonstrated that when targets believe someone at work has treated them disrespectfully, half will lose work time worrying about future interactions with the instigator, and half will contemplate changing jobs to avoid a recurrence. Most will tell friends, family and colleagues about how badly they have been treated, and some targets of bullying will leave the
company". [20 Nov 2007, PRNewswire,
bottom line is that workplace bullies are just far too expensive to
keep. And Australian organisations would be wise to pay careful
attention to the recent spate of workplace bully law suits taking
place where claims in excess
of one million dollars are being sought
— if only to realise, according to Business
Spectator, that "developing bullying at work policies and challenging existing corporate cultures is now no longer just a human resources function: it is a risk management function that needs to involve corporate boards. For investors, bullying at work is becoming a key risk that needs to be monitored in order to protect shareholder
Apr 2008, Australia].
is not a legitimate type of management 'style' - far from it...
According to new
research released by the (UK) Ban Bullying At Work
campaign, "two thirds of managers believe that a lack of management skills is the major factor contributing to
bullying," while other contributory factors include such things
as, "unrealistic targets (27%), authoritarian management styles (56%), personality (57%), and failure to address incidents (37%)."
Workplace Bullying Institute
(US) adds, "bullying isn't the same as tough management, but rather dumping misery on someone else."
Recent research by the Institute has found that targets often suffered anxiety, depression and even post-traumatic
stress — while costing employers millions in stress-related illnesses, absences and lost
productivity. "Verbal abuse, or conduct that is threatening, intimidating or humiliating —
it is the undermining of somebody's work, it is
sabotage," said the Institute's, Dr Gary Namie. [1 Nov 2007,
from Dr Mark Hayes, "Workplace bullying has nothing whatsoever to do with 'tough management', 'employee motivation', 'productivity improvement' and similar nonsense. It's actually an incompetent, dysfunctional manager or supervisor who believes they must resort to crude threats or intimidation to encourage their staff, or who rationalises their
(bullying) behaviour in these ways."
There's a greater chance you'll be
murdered at work, than dying in a plane crash...
Research by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety found that
one quarter ( 24.5%) of the companies surveyed reported incidents of bullying during the
prior year. In most incidents the victim was an employee
(55.2%), while customers (10.5%), and supervisors (7%) were frequently
listed as victims also. Even more concerning is that as of 2004,
"an average of 33,000 employees are assaulted at work and 17 employees are murdered at work each week."
[20 Nov 2007, PRNewswire,
you take the average number of employees murdered at work each week
(17), and compare this with data from the same year provided by the The
National Safety Council (USA) an organisation that has been compiling and reporting on injury data
every year since the 1920s — the numbers reveal that there's a greater
chance of being murdered at work, than dying in a plane crash!
'fear' of speaking about workplace bullying...
Various "recent surveys show bullying is on the increase at
work" and, more alarming, "that a high proportion of those
bullied feel they can't speak to anyone about it". [13 Dec 2007, Edinburgh
And the 'fear' about speaking up may be well founded, with a survey
conducted by Zogby on behalf of
the Workplace Bullying Institute revealing that despite losing an estimated
21-28 million workers because of bullying, "In 62 percent of the cases, when made aware of bullying, employers worsen
the problem or simply do nothing".
the Australian context, workplace bullying
was declared to be on the 'increase' from around 2001 with the release
of the 2001 Trade Union Survey
Report indicating that "more than half of the respondents...reported an unhappy and oppressive workplace, with
44% saying they were afraid to speak up." [Teaching
are not doing enough to identify and combat bullying and
violence in the
"Workplace bullying is on the rise, yet despite the prevalence of bullying and its damaging
impact, organizational responses are spotty, at best," says
the Crisis Prevention Institute (USA). [20 Nov 2007, PRNewswire,
reality, is that workplace bullying can happen in almost any
employment scenario, with "the most affected industries being those
with a very hierarchical management structure, high pressure jobs where staff can be seen as
fairly expendable and also in very small, sometimes family-run businesses which fall beneath the radar of union involvement and have no policies on bullying." [7
light of statistics showing that one in four people have been bullied at some point in their working lives,
and with new research indicating this figure could be as high as one
in two — UK employment law specialists MHL Support stated, "It is very important that
employers protect themselves and their employees from harassment and
bullying in the workplace. It is necessary to have policies and
procedures in place to deal with any instances and to ensure that all
employees are aware of them. All complaints should be taken seriously,
investigated and appropriate action taken. Equally, management should take responsibility to
create a working
environment that is free from harassment and bullying". [3 Dec
2007, UK, www.onrec.com].
according to a survey conducted in 2005 by the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of
Labor Statistics regarding workplace violence prevention, while
nearly five percent of the 7.1 million private industry business establishments
surveyed in the United States had an incident of workplace violence within the 12 months prior to
the survey — about one third of these "did not change their workplace violence prevention procedures after the
incident", and almost "9 percent...had no program or policy addressing workplace
violence" whatsoever. [20 Nov 2007, PRNewswire,
the Australian workplace perspective, Harmer's Workplace Lawyers
stated in Lawyer's Weekly Online, “If bullying is occurring in a work environment, it is up to the employer to change the culture of the workplace —
or face the consequences. If an employee is too scared to talk to their boss, or their boss’ boss about a bullying incident, the employer may be
liable...The courts do not look favourably upon any organisation, regardless of size, that has an incident of bullying, but has no policy or procedure in place informing its employees how to deal with and report incidents of bullying or
harassment. Similarly, employers must ensure such policies are very clearly understood, and enforced.
[14 Jun 2007, Lawyer's
above statement by Harmer's Workplace Lawyers can be seen 'in action'
with recent Australian cases such as DJ's $37million law
suit; and Air
Services combined $2million law suit by 2 employees.
"We are challenging businesses
to speak out against bullying to create workplaces where employees can see clearly
that bullying behaviours will not be tolerated," says
Lyn Witheridge, CEO of the UK-based 'Ban Bullying At Work' campaign,
"We want to inspire managers to speak
out and instill a culture where business is not frightened to stand-up to the
bullies." [2 Nov 2007, Clickdocs UK Legal News
"Any business that has no specific formal route for an employee to tackle bullying and harassment is open to a contractual breach of the duty of
care," says the UK-based Andrea
a global scale the 'laws' to protect workers against bullying are
scant at best...
According to an article by
Washington's The Olympian Online, "the first national laws against workplace bullying include:
• Sweden: Victimization at Work, effective March 31, 1994
• Great Britain: Protection from Harassment Act 1997
• France: Law for "Social Modernization" January, 2002.
In the USA, various States are passing anti-bullying laws.
The first was California in 2003, second was Oklahoma in 2004 and 2007; third was Hawaii in 2004, 2005,
2006, and 2007, and Washington fourth in 2005 and now in
2007-08." [26 Nov 2007, The
Olympian Online, Washington]. As
of an interview on 27 March 2008 on GMA, since 2003 13
states in the USA have implemented anti-bullying legislation. [Good
Morning America (TV
Interview), 27 Mar 2008]
From a historical
perspective, all Australian States and Territories followed in the footsteps of the UK during the 1970’s and 80’s in a total overhaul of their OH & S legislation and regulatory
framework following the release of the Robens Report in 1972 (This
report was extremely influential in the reform of OH & S in the UK
at the time).
Australian Occupational Health & Safety is still regulated by the States and
Territories1, who also have the responsibility of making and enforcing the OH&S laws in the form of Acts and Regulations.
The various Acts and Regulations outline the key duties of both
employers and employees. Since workplace bullying
and occupational violence create unsafe working environments and
pose a risk to
employees' health — employers' obligations extend to
eliminating or reducing the risk
of bullying and violence in their workplaces —
in other words, employers have a specific statutory duty to take 'all
reasonably practicable steps' to protect their employees' health,
safety and welfare.
On 5th April 2011, the
(Bullying) Bill 2011 was tabled in the Parliament of
Victoria (Australia). On 1st June 2011 The Crimes Amendment (Bullying) Bill 2011, was passed by Victorian
Members of Parliament - making this the first law of its kind in Australia to cover all
forms of workplace bullying - including threats, and abusive language. Under this law,
workplace bullying in Victoria is now a crime, carrying a penalty up to 10 years' jail for
those found guilty.
Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991 (Cth); Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000
(NSW); Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic); Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 (Qld); Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986 (SA); Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (WA); Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995
(Tas); Workplace Health and Safety Act 2007 (NT); Occupational Health and Safety Act 1989 (ACT).
page was last updated 29 August 2011]