Bullying at Work: More Common Than You May Think

As workplace bullying is on the rise, Walden faculty member Dr. Colleen Logan provides expert insights into what’s happening, how it affects employers and employees, and why it’s so hard to control.

Posted on October 10, 2013

Posted by Jen Raider
Posted on Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bullying in the workplace may be on the rise, with recent reports showing 35–50% of U.S. employees say they have been bullied in the course of their careers. Dr. Colleen Logan, program director for the M.S. in Career Counseling; MS in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling; and MS in Addiction Counseling programs and an expert in bullying issues, says, “Everyone has the right to work in a non-hostile environment.”

Spotlight on Walden talked with Dr. Logan to learn more about bullying at work, its effects, and why it can be so hard to control.

Dr. Colleen Logan
Dr. Colleen Logan

What are some of the forms bullying takes on at work?

Bullying in the workplace is similar to what happens on the playground. It can be a sustained, personal attack. It is emotionally punishing and can injure the self-esteem of the person who is bullied, effectively rendering him or her powerless. Bullying at work is equal opportunity—it can come from a superior who exploits power, a colleague, or even a direct report. Workplace bullies may use a variety of tactics: exclusion, scapegoating, discrediting, setting someone up for failure, name-calling, gossiping, or verbal abuse.

How does bullying in the workplace affect employers and employees?

Workplace bullies may be motivated by many of the same reasons as schoolyard bullies: to gain power or to overcome feelings of inferiority, fear, or jealousy. From an employer perspective, bullying can sap morale, increase employee turnover, and hurt the company’s bottom line. But more important, those who are bullied are indeed victims. The price they pay is feeling unsafe and powerless. They may lack self-confidence and feel devalued, discounted, anxious, depressed, trapped, hopeless, or helpless. Bullying may make targeted employees unable to carry out their work duties effectively.

Why is bullying hard to control in the workplace?

Bullying in the workplace is fundamentally wrong. However, people may fear broaching the subject because they do not want to admit to being a bully or to being bullied. Plus, those who witness bullying may not necessarily want to get involved. In addition, bullying is often hard to control because the bully can be a supervisor who is acting covertly. Part of the problem is that managers don’t always have the skills to address this serious issue. Some managers make the mistake of trying to help or coach the target rather than confronting the bully, which can give the implicit message that bullying is acceptable. While human resources may not necessarily be well-prepared to address the issue either, some offices are working toward creating anti-bullying policies separate from anti-harassment policies. Some states are even working on legislation to combat bullying in the workplace.

For tips on how people can protect themselves from workplace bullies, visit www.WaldenU.edu/bullyprevention.

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