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One in eight UK workers are victims of bullying reveals new IPD survey

Press release: Thursday 28 November 1996

One in eight people have been bullied at work in the last five years, according to a major new survey released today (Thursday) by the Institute of Personnel and Development (IPD). Over half of those who have experienced bullying say it is commonplace in their organisation and a quarter say the situation has got worse in the last year.

The survey of over 1,000 Workers reveals that the majority are being bullied by more senior staff. Almost one third of victims say the bully is the head of department or section and 16% point the finger at their chief executive or managing director. Over a quarter claim the bully is a Supervisor. Significantly, it is not junior employees who are most likely to be targeted by bullies, but managerial and professional staff Almost a quarter of middle managers and 18% of professionals surveyed by the IPD say they have been bullied in the last five years - in most cases by the head of department or the managing director.

"These results confirm that bullying doesn't stop in the school playground, but is a genuine problem in UK workplaces" says the IPD's Melissa Compton-Edwards, who led the research. "A disturbing number of senior executives are abusing their power. When those at the top adopt bullying tactics, it's a green light to everyone else in the organisation to behave likewise." She stresses that Top managers should lead by example, making it clear that any kind of bullying behaviour will not be tolerated".

Bullying behaviour typically consists of unfair and excessive criticism, publicly insulting the victim, ignoring their point of view and constantly changing or setting unrealistic work targets. Other common tactics reported by those who have been bullied include constant undervaluation of their efforts at work and shouting or abusive behaviour. Actual physical assault was less common, reported by just 8% of victims.

When asked to volunteer an explanation for the bully's behaviour most victims believed it was because the bully couldn't cope with their own job or was motivated by jealousy or resentment. Many also attributed the bullying to the bully being under pressure from a superior or under pressure to meet deadlines.

"Although a tough competitive environment doesn't create bullies, it may aggravate their behaviour" says Compton-Edwards. "The pressure felt by senior executives to meet performance targets with fewer resources could be encouraging them to bully their managers into delivering results. What they fail to recognise is that this kind of macho management can backfire, resulting in demoralisation, stress-related absenteeism, and higher staff turnover".

The IPD's survey found that 19% of those who experienced bullying say they performed less well at work as a result. Almost one third say they lost confidence and 20% became depressed.

Other key Survey findings:

Early next year the IPD will publish a Key Facts sheet on harassment at work, which will include advice to employers on tackling all forms of intimidating behaviour, including bullying. The Institute says the cornerstones of an effective anti-bullying programme are:

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Note to editors: This face-to-face omnibus survey of 1,007 UK workers was conducted by The Harris Research Centre on behalf of the IPD between 18-22 September 1996.

The survey results will be discussed at the IPD's one-day conference, Managing Stress at Work, on Friday 29 November 1996. Venue; The Novotel London Hammersmith Hotel. Press who would like to attend should contact Memuna Forna or tel: 0181 263 3251.

For further press information contact:

Melissa Compton-Edwards or Memuna Forna
Institute of Personnel and Development
IPD House, Camp Road, London SW9 4UX

Tel: 0181 263 3251 Fax: 0181 263 3244

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