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Workers bullied while on the job

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By Marry Kuhlman
DAVID R. TRIBBLE/WIKIMEDIA
  • David R. Tribble/wikimedia

While bullying is typically considered a schoolyard problem, millions of American adults say they've been victims of bullying on the job. According to a 2014 national survey from the Workplace Bullying Institute, 27-percent of workers report being bullied by a co-worker or boss.

WBI Director Gary Namie says these victims face threats, humiliation, work sabotage and verbal abuse. He calls it a "silent epidemic" that typically occurs behind closed doors.

"In adulthood, the bullies target the people who pose a threat to them," says Namie. "So, based on envy, jealousy and attributes they don't possess, like technical skill and being well liked, people are targeted."

October is Bullying Prevention Month, and Namie hopes it raises awareness about the effects of bullying on victims. He says it can traumatize a person, and even result in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. An estimated 65 million Americans are affected by workplace bullying.

In the workplace, Namie says victims often struggle to get employers to take their case seriously, that's why employer accountability is an important part of anti-bullying legislation.

"All the advice is, 'Well, you need to confront your bully.' Well, if you could've, you would've, and confrontation by a bully target is ineffective," says Namie. "Not because they're ineffective people, but because the power of the employer is behind the bully, not the target."

Namie's organization has introduced a "Healthy Workplace Bill" in 26 states, but not yet Indiana. Namie says it defines an abusive work environment and provides protections, both for employees and employers.

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