A Publication of WTVP

According to a national study conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 35 percent, or approximately 53.5 million adult U.S. workers, reported being bullied at work. The same research determined that an additional 15 percent reported witnessing workplace bullying. Bullying usually involves repeated acts or verbal comments intended to intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate a particular person or group of people.

Because bullying can adversely affect the safety and health of employees, there is a national grassroots legislative movement to enact the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill. Illinois was the 15th state to introduce a version of the Healthy Workplace Bill. Unfortunately, the bill is presently parked in the Rules Committee indefinitely.

There are two main types of bullying behavior, overt and covert. Examples of overt, or obvious, bullying behaviors include:

Covert, or more subtle bullying behaviors, are intended to undermine or inhibit others, or treat them less favorably. Less obvious bullying behaviors include:

Some factors that increase the risk for bullying behavior include: significant organizational change or internal restructuring, worker characteristics (e.g. age, gender, parental status), inadequate information flow between organizational levels, lack of employee participation in decisions, lack of policies about behavior, high rate and intensity of work, staff shortages, interpersonal conflict, organizational constraints, role ambiguity and role conflict.

Employees who are the targets of workplace bullying may experience a range of effects. These reactions include:

Employees who are not the direct targets of workplace bullying may experience similar effects. If you are aware of bullying in the workplace and do not take action, then you are accepting a share of the responsibility for any future abuses. In other words, individuals who witness bullying behavior must report such incidences. Bullies are less likely to engage in antisocial behavior when it is understood that his/her peers, as well as the organization, do not tolerate such behavior.

What can you do to stop workplace bullying? Bullying can be stopped. Regain control by recognizing that you are being bullied and realize that you are not the source of the problem. Some informal steps in dealing with most bullying cases:

Edna Ng, MSW, LCSW, CRADC is the coordinator for the Counseling Center at Proctor Hospital.