Study: Workplace bullying rampant in the U.S.

An estimated 77 million Americans are affected by ‘toxic’ work environments and offensive behaviors on the job.


American offices are often inhospitable, downright hostile landscapes.

According to a new study released by Radius Global Market Research, workplace bullying affects nearly half of U.S. employees. Rather than brash schoolyard violence and taunting, most workers are dealing with a subtler epidemic of incivility. Unfortunately, the effects of rampant bad behavior are serious and wide-ranging—for individuals and companies alike.

Companies might quibble over what, exactly, constitutes “bullying,” though the Workplace Bullying Institute describes it as “repeated mistreatment of an employee by one or more employees; abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating; work sabotage, or verbal abuse.” Eighty-one percent of respondents to this survey said they’d either witnessed or experienced such behavior at work.

The most common complaint was being “ridiculed or reprimanded in front of other staff,” which 29 percent of respondents mentioned. Twenty-three percent admitted to experiencing “harassment based on looks, body type or attire,” and 22 percent cited “coercion to take on extra hours.” One in five of those who’d witnessed bullying said they had been subjected to either “subtle or overt sexual harassment.”

The profound damage from bullying

Bullying, as one might imagine, is devastating for victims’ morale, which directly affects the bottom line. Unhappy employees are less likely to be productive, engaged, collaborative or loyal. They are prime candidates to be low performers.

Bullying can cause serious health consequences, too. Persistent nagging and negativity at work have been linked to long-term health complications.

Increasingly, workplace bullies are attacking from all angles of the org chart. Nearly 60 percent of respondents cited “co-workers” as the most common perpetrators of bad behavior, and just 39 percent pointed the finger at “managers.” Twenty-three percent said they’d been bullied by an “executive,” and 20 percent reported suffering incivility from a “subordinate.”

There’s no doubt workplace bullying is a widespread, serious issue that requires a widespread, serious response. One tactic is to prioritize recognition and praise, which, according to Gallup, can boost employee productivity, engagement, loyalty and retention. However, no amount of praise can offset a culture that tolerates harassment, hostility and various forms of abuse.

Read more about Radius Global Market Research’s findings here.

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