40% of workers experienced some form of bullying at the workplace, bBrave and PwC study finds


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40% of workers have in some way, shape or form experienced bullying at their workplace. This was one of several findings from the first of its kind research study by bBrave, to determine the extent to which bullying is present in the workplace, as well as its causes and consequences. bBrave commissioned PwC Malta in order to support the execution of the study.

When we think of bullying, many times we think of schools and children, but very few times do we realise that bullying is not limited to just one context or a specific age group. If at any point in your life, whether at home, at work, or any other context, you have experienced unwanted and/or abusive behaviour that involves the imbalance of power, evolves over time and is repeated, then this may be defined as bullying.

Workplace bullying can occur in various ways starting from excessive criticism, to intimidation and aggression, exclusion, ostracism and removal of responsibility. The Study on Bullying and Ostracism at the Workplace in Malta implemented two main methodologies: a quantitative online national survey that received over 2,400 responses and a qualitative segment with a series of 10 focus groups with up to 12 participants each, in order to analyse better the local workplace bullying situation.

Among the key findings, one can see that 64% of workers believe bullying exists at their workplace, while 56% of these said that they have witnessed cases of bullying themselves and 40% confirmed they have personally experienced bullying. From those who experienced bullying, 80% said that the bullying was psychological and emotional. The reasons behind the bullying were varied, with 69% saying the bullying they experienced was due to work related reasons, while 55% of persons with disability mentioned that they experienced bullying.  Other reasons brought forward by those who experienced bullying at the workplace include social class (22%), body appearance (15%) and age (22%). Furthermore, the study found that women (43%) were more likely to be bullied as opposed to men (38%), while 58% of participants residing in Gozo were bullied.

It is important to understand that cases of bullying don’t just make a person uncomfortable when they happen, but they can have a significant impact and bring with them several repercussions. The study found that 9% of those bullied were eventually driven to engage in self-harm or suicidal thinking/behaviour, 73% suffered from increased stress, and 58% suffered from mental health repercussions. Other forms of impact mentioned included physical health repercussions, and increased substance dependence.

Apart from health related impact, bullying can also impact an individual, organisation or society economically. The study found that 45% reported reduced work engagement, 37% felt less focused at work, 33% felt less productive and 23% confirmed that they took more time off from work.

The study also looked into whether cases of bullying are actually reported or not. Even though 88% of respondents admitting they were bullied in the presence of others, it found that only 42% reported bullying behaviour at their workplace, while 50% of workers that experienced workplace bullying did not report it due to fear of repercussions. The study also looked into how the reported cases of bullying were tackled. From those, only 4% were handled extremely well, while 29% were not handled well at all.

When individuals who were instigators of bullying were asked the reason why they bullied an individual in the workplace, 24% of them stated: ‘it was meant to be a joke’.

The research group, which consisted of a multidisciplinary team of professionals from both PwC Malta and bBrave, also provided a series of anti-bullying recommendations for the government and policy makers. These include strong anti-bullying legislation, national awareness campaigns, as well as increased quality and quantity of support reporting resources. Furthermore, the study also made recommendations for workplaces, encouraging them to introduce anti-bullying policies, put employee health and wellbeing at the forefront, as well as organise training around how to better handle such situations.

This Project is co-financed by the European Social Fund of the European Union under the Operational Programme II - European Structural and Investment Funds 2014-2020. This Project is co-financed through the NGO Co-Financing Fund (NCF) managed by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector (MCVS) supported by the Ministry for Inclusion, Voluntary Organisations and Consumer Rights (MIVC).

About bBrave

bBrave is the first anti-bullying NGO in Malta. Thanks to our members and sponsors, we are working on educating more about bullying and its effects. We operate on a fully voluntary basis. As we grow, we intend to be more actively involved in assisting individuals suffering from bullying connecting with the right support system.

About PwC

At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We’re a network of firms in 152 countries with over 328,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, advisory and tax services. Find out more and tell us what matters to you by visiting us at www.pwc.com/mt.

© 2024 PricewaterhouseCoopers. All rights reserved. ‘PwC’ refers to the Malta member firm, and may sometimes refer to the PwC network. Each member firm is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details.

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