Bullies in the Workplace

Does Gender Play a Role?

How to Face Your Fears

Does sex play a role? It depends on whom you ask. According to the WBI’s survey, the margin between men and women is slim — nearly 36 per cent of female workers report experiencing bullying compared to 33 per cent of males. However, other studies suggest that men are more likely to become targets than women.

Worst yet, many people who witness bullying are victims too — or become part of the problem. They often fear sticking up for the person and even withdraw friendship and support for fear of becoming the next victim. What about the perpetrators? Like their younger counterparts, adult bullies are often insecure, have low self-esteem, have poor social skills and lack empathy. Their insecurity leads them to try to cut down and exclude people who pose a threat.

Adult bullies also have an agenda of their own and use aggression to get ahead. It’s not surprising that the majority of bullies are in positions of power. According to the Canada Safety Council, over 70 per cent of bullies are bosses. Co-workers mostly account for the rest and subordinates are rarely bullies — after all, there isn’t much value in bullying someone higher up. Both men and women are bullies, though surveys don’t necessarily agree on the proportions. Some say men are more likely to be bullies than women, while other surveys claim the opposite. What most findings agree on is that men target both men and women, at almost the same rate, but women target other women in the majority of cases.

However, experts also warn that company culture plays a role in allowing bullying to occur. Most schools have a zero tolerance policy for bullying and procedures to deal with the problem, but employers are lagging far behind. A “tough management style” often isn’t recognized as bullying, and a highly competitive environment can encourage abusive behaviors. Positive consequences like promotions and bonuses reinforce bullying in cutthroat atmospheres, and everyone can get caught up in the culture.

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