How employers think they rate with handling workplace bullying

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Most research from the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) comes from targets. Through targets’ lenses, we’ve seen:

  • Only 4 percent of employers raised awareness of bullying (2010).
  • More than 80 percent of employers did nothing to stop the bullying. Of those employers, 46 percent were actually resistant to the topic (2010).
  • Nearly six percent of employers had a policy that covered bullying (2012).
  • Thirty percent of employers said bullying “doesn’t happen” (2012).
  • Around 88 percent of employers took no action against workplace bullying. They denied their responsibility to fix the problem (2012).

That picture of American employers is beyond unflattering.

So WBI surveyed business leaders themselves.

The results
What leaders said might be even more startling:

What is your opinion of workplace bullying?
Around 68 percent of leaders called workplace bullying “a serious problem.” Meanwhile, 76 percent of targets said their employers regarded workplace bullying as a non-issue. Perhaps the leaders simply gave the socially-desirable answer. Or maybe the discrepancy indicates changing perceptions.

What is your company doing about workplace bullying?
About 32 percent of leaders said “it doesn’t happen here, so no action is required.” Guess ignorance is bliss, huh? But what’s more startling is nearly 18 percent of leaders said they’ve raised awareness of the topic compared to 4 percent of targets who said their employers did the same. Along the same lines, 16 percent of leaders said they have adequate and specific workplace bullying policies, yet less than 6 percent of targets reported the same.

Not at my company
WBI reported that when differentiating between owners, CXOs, and VPs, owners took responsibility less of the time and are also the furthest from daily routines. Only 28 percent of owners said they’d act on workplace bullying (most said it wasn’t a problem at their companies), while more than 70 percent of CXOs and VPs believe workplace bullying was a problem at their companies and said action was warranted. Around a quarter of CXOs and VPs preferred to have HR handle the workplace bullying claims. Clearly those who are closest to the problem, the targets, have the best understanding of what’s really happening.

The bottom line
While WBI did not conduct research on whether or not leaders followed up with workplace bullying claims and says executives can be forgiven for not knowing workplace bullying claim results because it’s not a common executive job function, it’s up to leadership to change culture. Leadership followup is essential to changing the culture, with less reliance on solely to HR to change it.

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