Toxic Workplaces

Bullies in the workplace…do you know one? Are you the target of one? (Could you be one?)

So your boss is mean – but does his/her behavior qualify as “bullying?”

In two surveys cited by Workplace Bullying Institute (WPI),, workplace bullying was defined as:

  • “repeated, health harming abusive conduct committed by bosses and co-workers.”
  • “repeated mistreatment: sabotage by others that prevented work from getting done, verbal abuse, threatening conduct, intimidation, & humiliation.”

Many people who are targets of bullies think it’s their fault – that they’ve done something wrong, made so many mistakes – that they deserve the belittlement, marginalization or alienation. That’s just wrong. There are appropriate, professional methods for correcting employee performance, and bullying is not one of them.

Workplace bullying is more common than you might think. According to 2007 and 2010 survey data reported by WPI 2010 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey | Workplace Bullying Institute:

  • 35% of workers have experienced bullying firsthand
  • 62% of bullies are male; 58% of targets are female
  • In 80% of cases, female bullies target other women
  • 68% of bullying is same-gender harassment

If you are the target of a workplace bully, what should you do?

  • Think it’s too risky to do anything? WPI notes that in 77.7% of cases, the target loses his/her job, either involuntarily or by choice due to the impact of bullying on the person’s health.
  • Experts suggest a 3-Step Action Plan
    1. Name the behavior you’re being subjected to, whether you call it “emotional abuse,” “bullying,” or another name. There can be powerful healing that comes with naming.
    2. Take time off – consider sick leave or short-term disability, based on consultation with a therapist and physician. Assess and tend to your physical and emotional health, research legal options, compile data regarding the economic impact of the bully on the employer, and start a new job search.
    3. Follow the 4 guidelines sited on WPI to expose the bully.