The Stark Truth About Workplace Bullying: What Statistics Reveal

I believe that most of us in the workforce have been in a situation where bullying has taken place. We either stood as a witness, as a confidante, or have been the victim ourselves. Bullying is very apparent and persistent in the workplace, and is even expected to occur and recur repeatedly in an organization. But just how prevalent is workplace bullying? 

Numerous studies reveal that workplace bullying results in negative consequences both for the individual who suffered the abuse, and the organization as a whole. On the individual level, it results in severe stress, physical and mental suffering, ostracism, drug and alcohol abuse, family problems and loss of a job. The effects do not end with the individual. Since the harassed individual is a worker and a contributor to the achievement of company goals, the whole organization is likewise affected.

Studies show that where there is an increase in bullying prevalence in a workplace, there is also an increase in absenteeism and turnover of employees, and a decrease in overall performance and productivity. This means an increase in managerial costs could become exponential when incidents result in lawsuits. The intangible cost and damage to the reputation of the institution would likely hinder the recruiting and retaining of excellent talent.

Determining statistics on bullying will help us understand the immensity of the problem as well as the need for more concrete actions, and a more pro-active campaign against bullying in an organization.

Below are some numbers that will shed truth about workplace bullying:

  • The national prevalence of workplace bullying is a whopping 72%. This means that about ¾ of the entire US workforce (98.3 million American workers) are aware that bullying happens. (source)
  • 27% of Americans have experienced some form of abusive behavior at work, meaning roughly 37 million workers have experienced being bullied.
  • 21% of Americans (28.7 million) have witnessed bullying
  • Combining both numbers, 65 million are affected by workplace bullying
  • 56% of bullies are managers, mostly a rank higher
  • 72% of employers either condone or explicitly sustain bullying, either by denying or discounting that bullying is happening
  • Less than 20% of employers take actions to stop it
  • 5% of employers even encourage it (yes, you read that right!)
  • 38% of witnesses did absolutely nothing
  • 74% of the bullied lost their job (quit, made to quit, changed jobs or fired)
  • The compassionate and the kind are the most targeted (38%)
  • Targets lose their jobs four times higher than aggressors (82% vs. 18%)
  • 95% felt their organization lacks policies on bullying (source)
  • 81% stated that workplace bullying affected their close relationships and family life outside of work (source)
  • The cost of workplace bullying is over $4 billion yearly (source)

Bullying in Healthcare

In the healthcare industry, bullying is a pervasive problem and has one of the higher rates of bullying in the workplace (source). Here are other important findings from different sources:

  • 21 % of registered nurses and nursing students reported experiencing physical assault (source)
  • More than 50 % of registered nurses and nursing students were verbally abused (a category that included bullying) in a 12-month period
  • Psychiatric aides are the most prone to violent injuries (10 times higher) followed by nursing assistants and registered nurses respectively
  • Almost 21% of nursing turnover can be related to bullying (source)
  • 60% of new RNs who quit their job in the first 6 months claim that their resignation was due to bullying
  • Replacing one nurse can cost up to $88,000 USD
  • 86% of verbal abuse victims did not file a formal report (source)
  • In one study, 77% of respondents reported disruptive behavior by doctors while 65% reported disruptive behavior by nurses.
  • 75% of the respondents say that the disruptive behaviors led to medical errors with nearly 30% leading to patient deaths

These numbers are staggering, yet only a few institutions have explicit laws and policies against workplace bullying. Is there currently a law against workplace bullying? Sadly, no. Without a law, bullying becomes technically ‘legal’, and the aggressors continue to wreak havoc on others and the organization.

Why are policies absent or weak in most organizations? The probable reason is that 72% of employers are still in denial of the existence of the problem, or because they fail to recognize the effect of workplace bullying on the organization as a whole.

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Collaborative Problem Solving

The Healthy Workplace Bill

The majority of the public (93%) who are aware of this problem expressed the necessity to have a law against it. Currently, there is a bill being pushed to become a law. It is called the Healthy Workplace Bill.It is high time for the enactment of a bullying law because there has been a strong movement for fifteen long years.

What does this bill aim to achieve?

It aims to give a precise definition to ‘abusive work environment’. For employers, it would necessitate a proof of harm to be rendered by health professionals. It also aims to provide protection from liability risks, to provide a ground for sanctioning or terminating the aggressors, and to bridge the gaps in civil rights.

Workers on the other hand can expect that the pending law would serve as an avenue to compensate bully targets who suffered cruelty at work. It also aims to value the victim as an individual and as a contributor to company achievements. It would also firmly assert that employers could be held accountable, and that they should rectify bullying situations.

If you are willing to support the passing of this bill into law as soon as possible, now is the time to help. See how you can give your support here.


Incivility and Bullying Fact Sheet

Addressing Violence in the Health Care Workplace

 The New Age of Bullying and Violence in Health Care The Interprofessional Impact  

A Literature Review of Workplace Bullying: A Serious Organizational Problem

Impact of Workplace Bullying on Family

The effect of Workplace Bullying on Family Relationships: From Family Life to Family Strife

How Bullying Can Affect the Entire Family

Workplace Bullying among Healthcare Workers

2014 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey February 2014

Workplace bullying and families of targets

Nurse Bullying: An Ongoing Problem in the Health Care Workplace

Bullying has no place in health care