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In today’s cutthroat business environment, bullies appear to be taking over the workplace. This is bad news, but the even worse news is that they appear to have some real staying power.
A recent study found a huge 96% of employees have experienced bullying in the workplace in some form.
Also, rather terrifyingly, those conducting the bullying have apparently been engaging in their bad behaviour for more than a year, while 54% have been playing the bad guy for five years.
Some respondents even said their bully has been in the same job for 30 years.
READ MORE: Managing your workplace beasts
This survey, conducted by Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield, co-authors of the bestselling Crucial Conversations and Influencer, found that despite the bullies being the ‘bad guys’, it’s the people being bullied who tend to be driven out of their jobs earlier than they might otherwise be.
“We were astonished that in so many cases the person most likely to remain in his or her job was the bully,” said Grenny.
“Bullying can’t persist unless there is a complete breakdown in all four systems of accountability – personal (the victim himself or herself), peer (others who witness the behavior), supervisory (hierarchical leaders), and formal discipline (HR). So it was shocking to see in how many organisations not just one – but all four of these systems were terribly weak.”
According to the study, these bullies didn’t just pick on one person – 80% said their office bully picks on five or more people.
But sadly, just 51% also said their company had a policy for dealing with bullies, and only 7% knew of someone who had used the process. Six per cent of them said the process didn’t actually work to stop the bully when put into practice.
While these numbers are worrying, the research also found the bullying can take on a number of different forms. Respondents said:
- 62% had experienced bullies sabotaging others work or reputations
- 52% had experienced browbeating, threats, or intimidation
- 4% had experienced physical intimidation or assault
So, what can you do?
The research found verbal intervention was the most effective way to deal with bullies, as well as “informal peer accountability”.
You could also work with targeted staff to help them keep a bully diary to document the interactions they have with the bully.
Whatever you decide to do to deal better with workplace bullying, you had better do it quick – the survey also found bullying is expensive for a business.
Twenty per cent of respondents said dealing with workplace bullies costs them seven or more hours a week in lost time, which works out to roughly USD 8,800 in lost wages to those workers or their employers each year.