Study: Most workplace bullying is worker to worker

Most incidents of bullying in the workplace appear to be perpetuated by
employees against one another, early findings from a National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study suggest.

Efforts to make changes at the organizational level to prevent bullying in the
workplace should include steps to improve relationships among coworkers and
should not strictly focus on improving supervisor-employee and
customer-employee relationships, the researchers said in reporting the
preliminary results.

The findings were reported at the annual meeting of the American Psychological
Association as a progress report on the study.

Since the results are based on a survey of a representative but small sample of
respondents, other studies involving larger numbers of respondents would be
needed to confirm the findings. In addition, other research would be needed in
greater depth to identify the reasons for acts of bullying in the workplace,
the circumstances in which bullying is most likely to occur and specific
measures for improving interpersonal relationships in the workplace.

Data reported from the survey indicate the following:

  • Of the companies surveyed, 24.5 percent reported that some degree of
    bullying had occurred there during the preceding year.

  • In the most recent incident that had occurred, 39.2 percent involved an
    employee as the aggressor, 24.5 percent involved a customer and 14.7 percent
    involved a supervisor.

  • In the most recent incident, 55.2 percent involved the employee as the
    "victim," 10.5 percent the customer and 7.7 percent the supervisor

Information was collected from key respondents at 516 private and public
organizations; the respondents were human resources professionals or other
people who were knowledgeable about their organization. The organizations
ranged in size from five employees to 20,000 employees each. Bullying was
defined as repeated intimidation, slandering, social isolation or humiliation
by one or more people against another.

The study is part of NIOSH's research to identify factors associated with
work-related stress and to recommend practical interventions.

Further Information

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