Nearly Half of U.S. Workers Feel Bullied at Work

LCT Staff
Posted on May 2, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO — More than 44% of 534 U.S. workers surveyed feel that their bosses bully them on the job, according to the Employment Law Alliance, a San Francisco-based network of employment and labor attorneys. The survey also found that 64% of workers feel they should have the right to sue if bullied.

"I am somewhat surprised," said Stephen Hirschfield, CEO of the Employment Law Alliance. "It's a new issue and I did not know how pervasive it was." Bullying bosses are those who publicly criticize, rudely interrupt, tease, give dirty looks, use sarcastic jabs, or flat out ignore certain employees, according to the survey's respondents. Hirschfield said he was also surprised at how many workers would consider litigation, adding that he does not feel courts should be addressing the problem, because such cases would put "the jury in a situation where they have to Monday-morning quarterback."

Since it's difficult to characterize bullying, juries would have a tough time legally defining the problem, according to Hirschfield. They would have to decide whether certain behavior constitutes bullying or just a "lack of common courtesy." Hirschfield suggested that companies change their sexual harassment policies in order to include the most common bully tactics that bosses seem to use. "It would put management on notice of what is acceptable and what isn't," Hirschfield said. The policies "should have a zero tolerance policy for those problems."

A second workplace survey highlights another employee problem. A combination of stress, long hours, and an inflexible schedule is the main driver of bad behavior in the workplace, according to a new survey. Among more than 1,000 employees polled nationwide in February by Harris Interactive for Deloitte & Touche, the vast majority cited work-life balance as having a bigger impact on fostering good behavior than enforcing harsh workplace rules and penalties, the survey found.

As many as 91% of respondents said employees with a healthy work-life balance were more likely to act ethically on the job, while just 10% ranked strict penalties for code of conduct violations as a key element in fostering good behavior. Conflicts between work responsibilities and personal life were largely seen as causing stress and job dissatisfaction, which in turn led to poor decisions and bad behavior — whether it's stealing office supplies, lying to co-corkers and managers, or passing along company secrets, the survey found.

"If someone invests all of their time and energy into their jobs, it may have the unintended consequence of making them dependent on their jobs for everything — including their sense of personal worth," Sharon Allen, chairman of the board of Deloitte & Touche USA said in a statement.

Flexible schedules were cited by more than half of the respondents as a key factor in job satisfaction. Still, beyond work-life balance issues, upper management has an important role to play, the survey found. As many as 78% of respondents said managers and supervisors were the top two influences on the overall ethical culture of the workplace.

Source: Inc.com

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