Workplace bullying, like childhood bullying, is the tendency of individuals or groups to use persistent aggressive or unreasonable behaviour against a co-worker or subordinate. Workplace bullying can include such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation. This type of aggression is particularly difficult because unlike the typical forms of school bullying, workplace bullies often operate within the established rules and policies of their organization and their society. Bullying in the workplace is in the majority of cases reported as having been perpetrated by management and takes a wide variety of forms :
Bullying can be covert or overt as described by Tim Field (see the "Serial Bully") "bullies are deeply prejudiced but at the same time sufficiently devious to not reveal their prejudices to the extent that they contravene laws on harassment and discrimination" - Bully Online.org
While there is no single formal definition of workplace bullying, several researchers have endeavoured to define it. Some categorize all harmful boss-behaviour and actions of malintent directed at employees as bullying. Bullying behaviours may be couched in humiliation and hazing rites and iterative programs or protocols framed as being in the best interests of employee development and coaching. Others separate behaviours into different patterns, labeling a subset of those behaviours as bullying, explaining that there are different ways to deal effectively with specific patterns of behaviour. Some workplace bullying is defined as involving an employee’s immediate supervisor, manager or boss in conjunction with other employees as complicit, while other workplace bullying is defined as involving only an employee’s immediate supervisor, manager or boss.
Because it can occur in a variety of contexts and forms, it is also useful to define workplace bullying by the key features that these behaviours possess. Bullying is characterized by (Einarsen, 1999; Keashly & Harvey 2004; Lutgen-Sandvik, 2006):
This distinguishes bullying from isolated behaviours and other forms of job stress and allows the term workplace bullying to be applied in various contexts and to behaviours that meet these characteristics.
According to Pamela Lutgin-Sandvik, the lack of unifying language to name the phenomenon of workplace bullying is a problem because without a unifying term or phrase, individuals have difficulty naming their experiences of abuse, and therefore have trouble pursuing justice against the bully. Unlike the term "sexual harassment," which named a specific problem and is now recognized in U.S. law (and many international laws), workplace bullying is still being established as a relevant social problem and is in need of a specific vernacular.
Statistics from the 2007 WBI-Zogby survey show that 13% of U.S. employees are currently bullied, 24% have been bullied in the past and 12% witness workplace bullying. Nearly half of all American workers (49%) have been affected by workplace bullying, either being a target themselves or having witnessed abusive behavior against a co-worker.
Although socio-economic factors may play a role in the abuse, researchers from the Project for Wellness and Work-Life suggest that "workplace bullying, by definition, is not explicitly connected to demographic markers such as sex and ethnicity" (p. 151). Because 1 in 10 employees experiences workplace bullying, the prevalence of this issue is cause for great concern, even as initial data about this issue are reviewed.
In 2008, Dr. Judy Fisher-Blando  wrote a doctoral research dissertation on Aggressive Behavior: Workplace Bullying and Its Effect on Job Satisfaction and Productivity.  The scientific study determined that almost 75% of employees surveyed had been affected by workplace bullying, whether as a Target or a witness. Further research showed the types of bullying behaviour, and organizational support.
Race also may play a role in the experience of workplace bullying. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (2007), the comparison of combined bullying (current + ever bullied) prevalence percentages reveals the pattern from most to least:
The reported rates of witnessing bullying were:
The percentages of those claiming to have neither experienced nor witnessed mistreatment were among
According to Gary and Ruth Namie, as well as Tracy, et al., workplace bullying can harm the health of the targets of bullying. Organizations are beginning to take note of workplace bullying because of the costs the organization in terms of the health of their employees.
According to scholars at the The Project for Wellness and Work-Life at Arizona State University, "workplace bullying is linked to a host of physical, psychological, organizational, and social costs." Stress is the most predominant health effect associated with bullying in the workplace. Research indicates that workplace stress has significant negative effects that are correlated to poor mental health and poor physical health, resulting in an increase in the use of "sick days" or time off from work (Farrell & Geist-Martin, 2005).
In addition, co-workers who witness workplace bullying can also have negative effects, such as fear, stress, and emotional exhaustion. Those who witness repetitive workplace abuse often choose to leave the place of employment where the abuse took place. Workplace bullying can also hinder the organizational dynamics such as group cohesion, peer communication, and overall performance.
Several studies have attempted to quantify the cost of bullying to an organization.
Research by Dr Dan Dana has shown organizations suffer a large financial cost by not accurately managing conflict and bullying type behaviors. He has developed a tool to assist with calculating the cost of conflict. In addition, researcher Tamara Parris discusses how employers need to be more attentive in managing various discordant behaviors in the workplace, such as, bullying, as it not only creates a financial cost to the organization, but also erodes the company's human resources assets.
In 2005, psychologists Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon at the University of Surrey, UK, interviewed and gave personality tests to high-level British executives and compared their profiles with those of criminal psychiatric patients at Broadmoor Hospital in the UK. They found that three out of eleven personality disorders were actually more common in executives than in the disturbed criminals, they were:
In 2007, researchers Catherine Mattice and Brian Spitzberg at San Diego State University, USA, also found that: "Narcissism revealed a small significant positive relationship with bullying and was found to be significantly related to indirect bullying tactics rather than direct tactics. Narcissism also revealed a strong relationship with overall bullying motivation and a moderate relationship with bullying satisfaction.".
Each state has its own legislation.
In Queensland, legislation comes from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. If bullying (referred to as 'Workplace Harassment' in the Queensland subordinate legislation) endangers a worker's health causing stress or any other physical harm, a obligation holders under the 'Workplace Health and Safety Act, 1995' can be found liable for not providing a safe place for their employees to work. Queensland is one of only two States in Australia with a Code of Practice specifically for workplace bullying - 'The Prevention of Workplace Harassment Code of Practice, 2004'  In Victoria, legislation comes from Worksafe Victoria. If bullying endangers a worker's health causing stress or any other physical harm, a corporation can be found liable for not providing a safe place for their employees to work.
Quebec The Canadian Province of Quebec introduced legislation addressing workplace bullying on 1 June 2004. In its Act representing Labour Standards "psychological harassment" is prohibited. The Commission des normes du travail is the organization responsible for the application of this act.
Ontario Under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act 1979, all employers "take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker." This includes protecting them against the risk of workplace violence ". The Act requires establishment of Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committees for larger employers.
Under the act, workplace violence is defined as "...the attempted or actual exercise of any intentional physical force that causes or may cause physical injury to a worker. It also includes any threats which give a worker reasonable grounds to believe he or she is at risk of physical injury". Currently, as the Act is written, the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act does not specifically cover the issue of psychological harassment .
On Dec 13, 2007 MPP Andrea Horwath introduced for first reading a new Bill, Bill-29, to make an amendment to the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. This Bill-29 is proposing "to protect workers from harassment and violence in the workplace" and will include protection from psychological abuse and bullying behaviors in the workplace in Ontario.
The Ontario OHS Act has been amended to include Bill 168 which will come into force June 15, 2010. The amendment will include the protection of employees from domestic violence in the workplace. 
Saskatchewan The Canadian Province of Saskatchewan made workplace bullying illegal in 2007 by passing The Occupational Health and Safety (Harassment Prevention) Amendment Act, 2007. The act broadened the definition of harassment, as defined in the The Occupational Health and Safety Act 1993, to include psychological harassment.
In Ireland, there is a Code of Practice for employers and employees on the prevention and resolution of bullying at work. The Code notes the provision in the Safety, Health and Welfare Act 2005 requiring employers to manage work activities to prevent improper conduct or behaviour at work. The Code of Practice provides both employer and employee with the means and the machinery to identify and to stamp out bullying in the workplace in a way which benefits all sides.
Workplace bullying in Sweden is covered by the Ordinance of the Swedish National Board of Occupational Safety and Health containing Provisions on measures against Victimization at Work, which defines victimisation as "...recurrent reprehensible or distinctly negative actions which are directed against individual employees in an offensive manner and can result in those employees being placed outside the workplace community."
The act places the onus on employers to plan and organise work so as to prevent victimisation and to make it clear to employees that victimisation is not acceptable. The employer is also responsible for the early detection of signs of victimisation, prompt counter measures to deal with victimisation and making support available to employees who have been targeted.
In the United Kingdom, although bullying is not specifically mentioned in workplace legislation, there are means to obtain legal redress for bullying. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 is a recent addition to the more traditional approaches using employment-only legislation. Notable cases include Majrowski v Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Trust wherein it was held that an employer is vicariously liable for one employee's harassment of another, and Green v DB Group Services (UK) Ltd, where a bullied worker was awarded over £800,000 in damages. In the latter case, at paragraph 99, the judge Mr Justice Owen said,
"...I am satisfied that the behaviour amounted to a deliberate and concerted campaign of bullying within the ordinary meaning of that term."
Bullying behaviour breaches other UK laws. An implied term of every employment contract in the UK is that parties to the contract have a (legal) duty of trust and confidence to each other. Bullying, or an employer tolerating bullying, typically breaches that contractual term. Such a breach creates circumstances entitling an employee to terminate his or her contract of employment without notice, which can lead to a finding by an Employment Tribunal of unfair dismissal, colloquially called constructive dismissal. An employee bullied in response to asserting a statutory right can be compensated for the detriment under Part V of the Employment Rights Act 1996, and if dismissed, Part X of the same Act provides that the dismissal is automatically unfair. Where a person is bullied on grounds of sex, race or disability et al., it is outlawed under anti-discrimination laws.
It was argued, following the obiter comments of Lord Hoffmann in Johnson v Unisys in March 2001, that claims could be made before an Employment Tribunal for injury to feelings arising from unfair dismissal. It was re-established that this was not what the law provided, in Dunnachie v Kingston upon Hull City Council, July 2004  wherein the Lords confirmed that the position established in Norton Tool v Tewson in 1972, that compensation for unfair dismissal was limited to financial loss alone. Unfair dismissal compensation is subject to a statutory cap set at £60600 from Feb 2006. Discriminatory dismissal continues to attract compensation for injury to feelings and financial loss, and there is no statutory cap.
In the United States, comprehensive workplace bullying legislation has yet to be passed by the federal government or by any U.S. state government, but since 2003, many state legislatures have considered bills. As of April 2009, 16 U.S. states have proposed legislation; these are:
These workplace bullying bills have typically allowed employees to sue their employers for creating an "abusive work environment," and most have been supported by the notion that laws against workplace bullying are necessary to protect public health.
Although most U.S. states operate under the 19th Century doctrine of at-will employment (which, in theory, allows an employer to fire an employee for any reason or no reason), American workers have gained significant legal leverage through discrimination and harassment laws, workplace safety laws, union-protection laws. etc., such that it would be illegal under federal and the laws of most states to fire employees for a whole host of reasons. These employment laws typically forbid retaliation for good faith complaints or exercising legal rights, such as organizing a union. Discrimination and harassment laws enable employees to sue for creating a "hostile work environment," which can include bullying, but the bullying/hostility usually is tied in some way to a characteristic protected under the discrimination/harassment law, such as race, sex, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, etc. Visit http://www.healthyworkplacebill.org/ for more information.
Some organizations have long-established policies forbidding any kind of harassment. See for example the decades-old MIT policy on Harassment at http://web.mit.edu/policies/9/9.5.html .
The following pioneers made particularly important contributions to the understanding of workplace bullying.