Did you ever have to deal with a schoolyard bully? If so, then you probably have bad memories of the taunting and teasing. Now that you are all grown up, though, bullies are a thing of the past—or are they?

Workplace Options recently conducted a survey that reveals bullies are alive and well—in the workplace! Indeed, 47 percent of workers say they have witnessed, or know someone who has been a victim of workplace bullying. What’s more, 31 percent say they have personally been a victim of bullying in the office.

What is workplace bullying? In many ways, it’s much like the bullying you remember from the schoolyard. The simplest definition is when individuals or groups use persistent aggressive or unreasonable behavior against a co-worker or subordinate.

Workplace bullying may manifest as verbal, non-verbal, psychological or physical abuse and humiliation. According to the survey, 38 percent of respondents feel verbal abuse, including disrespect and malicious rumors, is the most debilitating form of bullying in the workplace, followed closely by harassment from superiors, at 23 percent.

“When individuals are treated negatively at work, it can significantly affect their ability to concentrate or function in a healthy and productive manner,” says Dean Debnam, CEO of Workplace Options. “Many employees may be uncomfortable or embarrassed discussing this abuse with their direct supervisor or HR director. If an employer can offer a third party for the individual to use as a sounding board, it may give them the confidence they need to speak up.”

So how do you deal with workplace bullying? The survey reveals that individuals are more likely to report incidents of bullying if they can speak to a third party source as opposed to someone internal to the company. Specifically, when individuals witness a co-worker being bullied, 37 percent say they are not comfortable discussing the incident with human resources or their supervisor. However, if an employer were to offer assistance dealing with a bully in the form of a third party, 65 percent would take advantage of this service.

In another significant finding, more than 90 percent of respondents believe workplace bullying can cause feelings of frustration and hopelessness, panic or anxiety about going to work, and physical symptoms such as an inability to sleep or loss of appetite. According to the survey, half of respondents do not think their employer takes appropriate measures to discourage and reprimand bullies, or are unsure if any measures are taken.

“If employers do not ensure that workplace bullies are acknowledged and held accountable for their actions, members of their staff may begin to suffer mental and emotional damage,” says Alan King, president and COO of Workplace Options. “The quickest way to identify a bully is to provide your employees with an outlet to report the abuse, whether they are a witness or a victim.”

Check out this video on workplace bullying:

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