A new, scientific public opinion survey on workplace bullying in the U.S., conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute, shows that repeated, abusive conduct remains a significant problem in the American workplace, that employers are doing little to stop it, and that the American public strongly supports workplace anti-bullying legislation.
The 2014 survey, done in conjunction with Zogby Analytics, surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults in late January. Here are the survey highlights:
- “27% of adult Americans have directly experienced ‘repeated abusive conduct that is threatening, intimidating, humiliating, work sabotage or work abuse.’”
- “Counting witnesses, 48% have been affected”
- “72% of Americans are now aware of workplace bullying”
- “93% of Americans want a law to protect them from abuse in addition to anti-discrimination laws”
- “Employers are lagging far behind and doing relatively nothing voluntarily to stop abusers on the payroll”
- “Women bullies still target women at a disproportional rate (68%)”
- “Women are still the majority of targets (60%)”
A full 17-page summary of the survey findings is available in pdf format here.
More accurate, focused survey findings
Improving on its 2007 and 2010 survey instrument, WBI tweaked its survey to zero in on severe, targeted abuse at work. At first blush, the 27 percent figure of those who have directly experienced workplace bullying may appear lower than previous surveys. In actuality, it reflects sharper questions designed to elicit responses about genuine workplace bullying, while screening out reports of lesser forms of incivility and disrespect.
When asked about their understanding of employer reactions to workplace bullying, some 72 percent of survey respondents indicated that employers deny, ignore, or minimize concerns about bullying behaviors — and that some even encourage them as part of competitive organizational cultures.
Clearly we need to dig deeper into what employers are doing to prevent and respond to workplace bullying, but the overwhelming public perception is that they’re sweeping it under the rug.
The survey questions also more closely track the language and intent of the Healthy Workplace Bill, which provides a legal claim for damages for targets of abusive mistreatment at work and creates legal incentives for employers to act preventively and responsively toward bullying behaviors.
In this context, over 9 in 10 respondents supported workplace anti-bullying laws.
More to come
The long summary is packed with useful, interesting findings. I’ll have more to say about the survey results in future posts.