Study: Bullied at Work? No Matter What You Do, You’re Screwed

Bullying is not only a huge emotional drain on an individual, it’s a huge financial drain on businesses. It’s easy enough to put a stop to it–bullies need victims and they need bystanders to ignore their bullying, so if we don’t put up with bullies, they don’t have anyone to bully and the problem is solved.

Except, apparently, we’re all wimps when it comes to someone else being bullied.

A new study out of the Netherlands (usual caveats about cultural differences and don’t take small number studies–161 people in this case–too seriously) suggests that no matter what victims do, their co-workers will ignore the bullying.

Researchers divided people into two groups and presented them with bullying scenarios and asked how they would respond based on the victim’s response.

In the first case, “the victim was proactive, darling the bully to criticise them to their face or demand they cease their behaviour.” In the second case, the victim was avoidant. This victim “avoided the situation, by skipping out when the bully entered a room, or by taking sick leave to avoid work entirely.”

To keep reading, click here: Study: Bullied at Work? No Matter What You Do, You’re Screwed

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12 thoughts on “Study: Bullied at Work? No Matter What You Do, You’re Screwed

  1. I don’t believe that the victim should just move on, until and unless they have done everything in their power to — legally and non-violently — resist the bullying and to demand that management do its job and ensure that the bullying cease. Like most people, I have been bullied at work, and it just got worse — to the point that it was adversely affecting my health — until I simply could not take it any longer, stood up for myself, refused to be bullied any more and blew the whistle on the bully to management, who immediately responded and took effective action. Soon afterward, the bully resigned, “to pursue other professional opportunities,” and the co-workers whom the bully had attempted to turn against me came around and we (re)established healthier working relationships.

    1. You should stand up for yourself, but this study shows that standing up for yourself doesn’t necessarily work. People don’t want to get involved. Should they? Yes. Will they? Not usually.

      Bullying is legal provided it’s not due to race/gender/etc

  2. Be merciful to me, my God, for my enemies are in hot pursuit; all day long they press their attack. My adversaries pursue me all day long; in their pride many are attacking me. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? (Psalm 56:1-4)

    Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

    I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (The words of Jesus, John 16:33)

    … God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, the Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid; what can mere mortals do to me? (Hebrews 13:5-6)

  3. I would have liked for the study to show a third option-for the bullied coworker to directly ask for help. I think bystanders often don’t get involved because 1) they aren’t sure what to do, and 2) they think ‘somebody else’ will take care of it. It would be much harder to remain neutral if the bullied party directly asks for their help in confronting the bully.

    1. I think you have a good idea going here. How often do we ask for help when we need it? Not often enough.

  4. I have been bullied at work. I agree with this article, no matter what you do, you’re screwed. I stood up for myself, and went through the chain of command to get help and I was the one who, in the end, had to leave for my mental health.

    1. Me too. I asked for help. I refused to accept the bullying. In the end, the company did nothing. I spent tons on therapy just to get through it until I could leave. She still works there. They promoted her.

  5. When the bully is of greater status than the bullied (which is common) there isn’t that much that can be done. I pushed back against a bully a long time ago for someone else, and lucked into the exact right circumstances to keep my job. It could have gone very badly.

    1. So much of the time it is a manager doing the bullying. The company refuses to do anything even though turnover costs them money.

  6. I actually didn’t fight it and eventually left. We had the opportunity to move for my husband’s job, and this made it very easy to leave. My experience mirrors this article. I wasn’t a target at first. In fact, she would complain to me about everyone and everything, and I would smile politely. I was a contractor, and she was an employee. I didn’t want to make waves; I just wanted to do my work. Then I spoke up about something work-related – that contrasted her opinion – in a meeting, and I became her target. The other employees would tell me that they felt awful, for how she would talk about me, but they never did anything to help.

    I know this:
    -I was unmotivated to work hard for the greater part of my last year there (this affecting the business)
    – When I left, she moved onto someone else (thus affecting the business)
    – Turnover is expensive! (thus affecting the business).

  7. This was my experience. Manager was the bully. Coworker who was friendly before did nothing and sometimes even went along with bullying. Went to bosses boss and got gas lighted. Others didn’t just do nothing, several started bullying as well. I got very lucky. The manager and bosses boss left. New manager loved me and thanks to connections from work committees I got promoted to another department. The friendly co worker turned bully called me one night crying and begging for forgiveness. She just kept repeating how sorry she was but that she was so terrified that if she did not go along with my managers lies that she would become the target.

  8. What you describe is precisely what it happening to my friend. There is someone on her team that is bullying a number of people in the team, including her. She is spiteful and vindictive. The atmosphere is appalling.

    Her direct supervisor is getting told by those above and HR that the bully is suffering from depression and they all have to be sensitive to that. She feels her hands are tied by this.

    Although that of course could be true, I suspect that they’re frightened of what the bully would do if they disciplined and perhaps even fired her. So they are putting more and more of the load onto the rest of the team. This who can find other jobs, are doing it.

    Lots of anecdotal experience saying you are absolutely correct. Time to do your own study?

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