March 22, 2012
Matthew D. Griffith, M.S., RCRSP
Georgia Institute of Technology
Chances are, if you are like most Americans, you have experienced or witnessed a bullying incident in your workplace. A 2010 study by the Workplace Bullying Institute and Zogby International confirmed the findings of their 2007 study that 50% of American workers have experienced bullying at work, 35% experienced it firsthand and another 15% witnessed workplace bullying. Of these 50%, 26% report being the victims of workplace bullying on an ongoing basis.
This is just a small sample of an extensive research base into the dark side of people in organizations. Scholarly research has been conducted under many different labels including workplace bullying, supervisor undermining, interpersonal aggression, abusive supervision, petty tyranny, and incivility in the workplace, among others. Regardless of the title given, these studies all focus around one common subject: workplace jerks. Most of these studies have focused on the destructive side of the jerk’s behavior and found it usually to be directed downward–by supervisors to their subordinates. Nearly all have similar conclusions: these mean-spirited people do a lot of damage to victims, witnesses, and organizational performance.