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Workplace bullying on the rise, according to new study

By Debra Auerbach, CareerBuilder Writer


Most workers, even those who love their jobs, would probably say their job has caused them stress at some point. Throw in job insecurity, an increased workload and intensified pressure to perform, and stress levels can hit the roof. On top of that, some workers may also be faced with workplace bullying. While workplace bullying isn't new, it is becoming more prevalent. According to a new CareerBuilder study, 35 percent of workers said they have felt bullied at work, up from 27 percent last year. Bullying can cause more harm than hurt feelings or bruised egos; 17 percent of the workers who said they've felt bullied also reported that they quit their jobs to escape the situation. Sixteen percent said they suffered health problems as a result. The profile of a bully The study, which included more than 3,800 workers nationwide, revealed that bullies can be found at all levels within a company. Of workers who felt bullied, most pointed to incidents with their bosses (48 percent) or co-workers (45 percent). Thirty-one percent say they have been picked on by customers and 26 percent by someone higher up in the company other than their boss. Fifty-four percent of those bullied said they were tormented by someone older, while 29 percent said the bully was younger.

Words used as weapons While bullying can sometimes be physical, words can also wound. Workers reported being bullied in the following ways:

Falsely accused of mistakes -- 42 percent Ignored -- 39 percent Used different standards or policies toward me than other workers -- 36 percent Constantly criticized -- 33 percent Someone didn't perform certain duties, which hurt my work -- 31 percent Yelled at by boss in front of co-workers -- 28 percent Belittling comments were made about my work during meetings -- 24 percent Gossiped about -- 26 percent Someone stole credit for my work -- 19 percent Purposely excluded from projects or meetings -- 18 percent Picked on for personal attributes -- 15 percent

Speaking up It takes courage to confront a bully or report the aggressor to human resources, but speaking up is often the only way to stop it. Bullied workers have handled the situation in different ways:

49 percent of victims reported confronting the bully themselves. 50 percent of those who confronted the bully said the bullying stopped; 11 percent said it got worse; 38 percent said the bullying didn't change. 27 percent reported it to their HR department. 43 percent of those who reported it to HR said action was taken; 57 percent said nothing was done.

Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, says, "Bullying can have a significant impact on both individual and company performance. It's important to cite specific incidents when addressing the situation with the bully or a company authority and keep focused on finding a resolution." Three tips for taking action Here are three ways to handle a workplace bullying situation: 1. Keep a record. Write down all bullying incidents, documenting places, times, what happened and who was present. 2. Try talking it out. Consider talking to the bully, providing examples of how you thought you had been treated unfairly. It's possible the bully may not be aware that he is making you feel this way. 3. Focus on resolution. When sharing examples with the bully or a company authority, center the discussions on how to make the working situation better or how things could be handled differently.

4. Find jobs | Post your rsum Debra Auerbach is a writer and blogger for and its job blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.