Survey Suggests Many Bosses Unaware Of Verbal Abuse In Office

A survey was just completed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) that included questions related to bullying in the workplace. The respondents were largely managers, including personnel managers; the results were disturbing. One in four managers reported bullying in their offices and three in five said berating of employees and “the silent treatment” had occurred in the past year.

Surprisingly, the larger the company, the more likely the bullying went on, with non-profit job sites having more bad behavior than for-profit sites. Also linked to sites with greater bullying: stress, poor job security and a lack of trust between managers and employees.

A psychologist who has done three employee studies notes that more “scapegoating” and face-to-face verbal cuts go on than is reported. Nearly 3 in 4 workers report these experiences but don’t complain to their managers, who therefore don’t necessarily know what’s going on. The reason – they feel it’s dangerous to complain. Supporting this fear is the fact that two out of three who tried to defend themselves against this behavior reported retaliation.

The author suggests that the only way for companies to find out the extent of this problem at their site is to have 360-degree evaluation, where peers and subordinates are also asked to review managers. The stakes can be high, as verbal abuse in the workplace lowers productivity, motivation and job satisfaction and can lead to depression, insomnia and alcohol and drug abuse.

The article ends with a chart showing how workers coped with the abuse they faced. The most telling figures were at the extremes of the chart – 3 percent made a formal complaint while 77 percent “just put up with it.” The problem is like an iceberg with most of the problem hidden out of sight. Without an active investigation there’s no telling how deep the problem runs until serious damage is done to the company and its employees.

Source: Marilyn Elias, USA Today; July 28, 2004

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