Nearly 20 percent of U.S. workers experience bullying in the workplace and 19 percent witness it, according to a national survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI). The survey defined workplace bullying as “repeated mistreatment of an employee by one or more employees; abusive conduct that is: threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, work sabotage, or verbal abuse.” Although the WBI survey was conducted in 2017, the problem has not abated; in a 2019 survey, nearly 94 percent out of responding employees reported being bullied in the workplace.

Gender, racial bullying

Dramatic gender and racial differences appeared in the WBI key findings; 70% of the perpetrators were men and 60% of the targets are women, while Hispanics were identified as the most frequently bullied race.

Gary Namie, PhD, WBI Research Director, lays the blame for workplace bullying squarely on employers, who he says are failing to take responsibility for prevention and correction. That’s not surprising, given another survey result: 61 percent of the bullies are bosses.

Even employers who are not perpetrators may contribute to a toxic culture by denying that the problem exists, by not taking action because they don’t know what action to take or by declaring that the employees involved work out the problem themselves.

With – according to the survey – 61 percent of Americans being aware of abusive conduct in the workplace and 60.4 million affected by it – Namie’s description of workplace bullying as “an American epidemic” is not hyperbolic.

The effects of workplace bullying range from psychological (stress) to physical (stress-related health problems) to financial (65 percent of survey respondents left their jobs because of bullying).

Namie is coordinating a campaign to pass a Healthy Workplace Bill, with the help of volunteers in individual states. A majority of those participating in the survey (77 percent) said they support enacting a new law to ban workplace bullying.

You can download the complete report here.