From Schoolyard to Cubicle

November 22nd, 2010 by Andrea Bennett

Incidents of workplace bullying are increasing, but what's being done about it?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Few catchwords are likely to receive more attention at the moment than “bullying.” From growing concerns of cyberbullying to the New Jersey Senate approving the most comprehensive set of anti-bullying legislation in the country, it’s a topic that now seems to be everywhere – including the workplace.

A recent piece in the Contra Costa Times tells the story of a woman who claimed she was stalked in the halls by her supervisor and berated with personal insults to the extent that she suffered panic attacks and took a leave of absence. According to this article, while workplace bullying can lead to heart attacks and even suicide, there are no laws on the books against bullying on the job, and no easy legal recourse to turn to for the bullied.

And unfortunately, the phenomenon may even be getting worse with the recession. Gary Namie, a social psychologist and founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute, told that during good times, abused workers might feel secure enough to walk off the job, but with high unemployment many feel they have to stay the course.

But perhaps the most distressing news is that more often than not, the bullied feel somewhat responsible for being targeted. The Workplace Bullying Institute recently completed a survey of 1069 people (of whom 98 percent said they were targets of workplace bullying). The survey, which sought to establish if the targets felt personal shame or stigma attached to their bullying, reported the following results: 35% believed that “somehow I might have deserved the criticisms”; 28% blamed themselves for “not being able to counter or confront” (the bully); 22% were embarrassed from “allowing it to happen to me”; while only 13% felt no shame, saying they “did not invite or deserve the assaults.”

Do you feel like you’ve been bullied at work? How did you deal with it? Think lawmakers should focus as much of their attention on adult victims as they do on bullied kids?