At least one-third of Americans currently face bullying pressures in the workplace or have been bullied at work, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), a grassroots organization dedicated to understanding, correcting and preventing all abuse at work.

A recent Society of Human Resource Management survey revealed 51 percent of organizations report incidents of bullying in their workplace. The three most common outcomes of bullying incidents were:

  • Decreased morale (68 percent)
  • Increased stress and/or depression levels (48 percent)
  • Decreased trust among co-workers (45 percent)

The WBI defines workplace bullying as repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons by one or more perpetrators. It includes verbal abuse, offensive conduct and behaviors that are threatening, humiliating or intimidating, and work interference or sabotage.

According to the WBI, these actions can have serious physical and emotional effects on the victims, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

Human resource professionals and the WBI are taking separate paths toward addressing the workplace bullying issue. While HR efforts typically concentrate on strengthening language within existing organizational policies, WBI Director Gary Naime has been lobbying states since 2003 to enact anti-bullying legislation.

Twenty-one states have introduced healthy workplace bills as of the end of February, with no laws yet enacted. Thirteen states are active with 18 current bills in process.