Weekend Poll Results: Bullying in the Workplace

With thanks to all who participated, here are the results of my latest weekend poll. Our focus: Have you been bullied in the workplace?

Is workplace bullying more prevalent in some cultures than others?

I ask because I’ve not seen it occur, but it’s clear that many readers’ experience is otherwise. In fact, 80% of respondents reported that they have been bullied in the workplace. Where does it happen? Well, 64% of respondents reported that it happened to them in the private sector, compared to 8% in the public sector … while 24% of respondents reported having been bullied in both those sectors. Some good news? A higher percentage of readers reported standing up to bullies this year than in response to my 2016 Poll.

Policies and Codes of Conduct as mechanisms

There seems to be a disconnect between the high percentages of people who reported having been bullied in the workplace and the fact that 80% of respondents reported that their employers have something in writing that’s intended to foster a respectful environment. 20% of respondents reported having  a policy/policies or formal language to address this, and another 30% work in organisations that have a Code of Conduct.

Yet another 30% of respondents work in organisations that have both a Code of Conduct and policy to foster a respectful environment. However, only 50% of respondents who said they’ve been bullied in the workplace said that they’ve reported it to management. What gives? Well, some readers reported that the bullying was done by management – but that’s not necessarily the case for all such occurrences.

Who are these bullies, anyway?

Do bullies recognise themselves as such? Well, 79.5% of you thought not.

Consider this, though: I asked readers if you’ve ever bullied someone else in the workplace. 3% of readers replied in the affirmative, and one reader commented, “and I’m not proud of it”. In equally admirable displays of self assessment, one of every three respondents to this Poll acknowledged that they weren’t sure if they’d bullied someone else in the workplace; they acknowledged that they may have been aggressive, but wouldn’t consider it bullying. How many of us who have distaste for such behaviour might be perceived by others as bullies? What are the lines between being assertive, aggressive and bullying?

 

Check my Resources tab for ideas 

Have a look at some of the anti-bullying day websites, and you’ll find they list a number of resources. I’ve also established a page on this website, listing resources readers have identified to date. You’ll find that under the Resources tab near the top of your screen, or by clicking here.

 

Canada’s Pink Shirt Day: How two Grade 12 boys started changing mindsets with a “sea of pink”

You may question whether you, as an admin. professional, have capacity to influence peoples’ perspectives on bullying. I’m here to suggest that you do.

Take, for example, Canada’s annual Pink Shirt Day. This is an event that spread from rural Nova Scotia (which is geographically closer to the UK than to Vancouver), where a Grade 9 boy wore a pink polo shirt on his first day of class. Fellow students called him a homosexual and threatened to beat him up. Then-Grade 12 students Travis Price and David Shepherd heard of this bullying, and decided to change some mindsets. How? They went that day to a discount store and bought 50 pink shirts. They emailed male classmates and asked them to join them in wearing the 50 pink shirts to school the next day. Word spread, and not only did 50 students wear the assorted pink t-shirts from the discount store, but hundreds of students in total found and wore their own pink outfits to class.

Word also spread beyond Canada’s borders. Pink Shirt days and variations on the theme now extend to a number of countries. You’ll find  similarly themed events in AustraliaNew Zealand, the UK, the USA and more. My peers Lucy Brazier, Victoria Darragh and Bonnie Low-Kramen have taken leadership positions on anti-bullying, and I suspect that you also know people who advocate for respectful behaviours. The United Nations is also on board, and five years ago it declared May 4 as Anti-Bullying Day.

When you think about the impact two Grade 12 students have had to date, why should it be difficult to imagine that you have capacity to influence change? Should you encourage in-house discussion, or advocate for a whistleblower (protected disclosure) policy? Or, might you raise this on an upcoming agenda for your professional association or network?  While you ponder that, you may want to see the data from this Weekend Poll, below.

THE DATA

Image result for pink shirt day

Note: Information below reflects the percentage of respondents who selected specific responses from multiple choice options. In instances where more than one person offered similar responses to open ended questions, I clustered responses and did not duplicate all of them. You’ll see I’m not providing all data for the 2016 poll on this topic; if the percentages reflecting “yes” and “no” responses don’t add up to 100%, you can anticipate that outstanding percentages reflect “Other” responses … and you’re welcome to click here to look at last year’s poll results in full.

Have you been bullied in the workplace?

  • Yes:  80% of respondents – compared to 71% in 2016
  • No: 20% of respondents – compared to 24% in 2016

 

Have you ever bullied someone else in the workplace?

  • Yes:  3% of respondents – compared to 2.5% in 2016
  • No:  60of respondents – compared to 76% in 2016
  • Not sure; I may have been aggressive but wouldn’t consider it bullying: 34% of respondents – compared to 19% in 2016
  • 3% of respondents selected “Other”. One, presumably someone who reported having been a bully, wrote, “and I’m not proud of it”.

 

If you’ve been bullied in the workplace, do you think the person involved would recognise her/himself as a bully?

  • Yes:  17of respondents – compared to 10% in 2016
  • No: 79.5% of respondents – compared to 73% in 2016
  • 3.5% of respondents selected “Other”. One person wrote, “As company owner he probably considered it his God-given right.”

 

If you’ve been bullied in the workplace, did you stand up to the bully?

  • Yes:  50of respondents – compared to 42% in 2016
  • No:  43of respondents – compared to 37% in 2016
  • 7% of respondents selected “Other”.  Two people commented that they quit their jobs; one wrote, “I quit. The bully was the company owner.”

 

If you’ve been bullied in the workplace and stood up to the bully, did that change the relationship?

  • Yes; it made the relationship more difficult: 43.75of respondents – compared to 31% in 2016
  • No: 37.5 of respondents – compared to 31% in 2016
  • Yes; it changed the relationship for the better: 18.75of respondents – compared to 11% in 2016

 

If you’ve been bullied in the workplace, have you reported it to management?

  • Yes:  50% of respondents – compared to 49% in 2016
  • No:  39% of respondents – compared to 32% in 2016
  • 11% of respondents selected “Other”. Readers offered comments as follows.
    • The bully was the lawyer and owner of the law firm
    • It was management
    • Management was the bully

 

Have you observed others bullying or being bullied in the workplace?

  • Yes:  80.65of respondents – compared to 84% in 2016
  • No:  19.35% of respondents – compared to 13% in 2016

 

If you’ve observed bullying in the workplace, did you take any action?

  • Yes; I tried to help the person being bullied by offering suggestions:  39.5of respondents – compared to % in 2016
  • Yes; I reported it to management/a whistleblower line: 22% of respondents – compared to 25% in 2016
  • Yes; I intervened and/or spoke to the bully: 22% of respondents – compared to 30% in 2016
  • N/A; I’ve not observed bullying in the workplace: 14of respondents – compared to 10% in 2016
  • 11% of respondents selected “Other”.  Two people wrote “No”, and one person reported that they quit (In 2016, 25% of respondents said they did not take any action).

 

Does your employer have a Code of Conduct and/or policies that foster a respectful environment?

  • Yes; we have a Code of Conduct that addresses this:  30of respondents – compared to 38% in 2016
  • Yes; we have both a Code of Conduct and policy to address this:  30of respondents – compared to 36% in 2016
  • Yes; we have a policy/policies/formal language that addresses this:  20of respondents – compared to 13% in 2016
  • No:  20of respondents – compared to 13% in 2016

 

Do you have an employee association/network through which you could advocate for a Code of Conduct, policy and/or fostering a respectful workplace?

  • Yes:  53.5of respondents – compared to % in 2016
  • No:  43of respondents – compared to % in 2016
  • 3.5% of respondents selected “Other”.  On person commented that this would be the job of their Work’s Council.

 

If you have been bullied in the workplace, did it occur in the public or private sector?

  • Private sector:  64of respondents – compared to 42.5% in 2016
  • Both sectors:  24% of respondents – compared to 21.25% in 2016
  • Public sector:  8% of respondents – compared to 21.25% in 2016
  • Non-profit sector: 4% of respondents

 

Canadians wear pink on “Pink Shirt Day” to signify that they won’t tolerate bullying. Do you have anything similar? Note: There’s no benchmark, as I didn’t pose this question in 2016.

  • No: 70% of respondents
  • No, but this prompts me to think about raising it with my network/association:  18of respondents
  • Yes; I’m a Canadian: 9% of respondents
  • Yes, and I’m from another country: 3% of respondents

 

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