Federal Agencies Urged to Address Workplace Bullying

meritWhen an incident of assault, harassment, intimidation, or bullying occurs in a federal workplace, it is usually caused by an employee rather than a customer, criminal, or someone who has a personal relationship with the victim.

This is the conclusion of a study on workplace violence in the federal sector released in September by the U.S. Merit Systems Protectoin Board, an independent federal agency that promotes the efficient and effective use of the federal workforce. 

 The study, entitled Employee Perceptions of Federal Workplace Violence, recommends that federal managers “foster organizational cultures that do not tolerate violent behavior and that takes reports of such behavior seriously.”

 Essentially the board is recommending that federal agencies adopt workplace anti-bullying and harassment policies that cultivate  “organizational cultures that treat employees with dignity and respect.”   

 The study’s definition of workplace violence includes emotional violence –  bullying, harassment and intimidation – as well as physical violence.

 The study found that overall 13 percent of the federal employees surveyed - which is estimated to be one in eight federal employees - observed an incident of workplace violence in the past two years. The incidence was much higher in certain occupational groups – 26 percent of federal employees in medical/hospital occupations and 21 percent in police/security occupations.

 About 54 percent of the violence observed was perppetrated by current or former federal employees; 34 percent was perpetrated by a customer; 7 percent by an individual who had a personal relationship with an employee; and four percent involved criminals.

 Overall, the report states that 73 percent of the employees said their agency took sufficient steps to ensure their safety from violence in the workplace.  However, that figure shrank to only about one-third  of employees who had observed workplace violence by current or former employees or by individuals who had a personal relationship with an employee.

 The report recommends that agencies adopt  strategies to deal with workplace violence by current and former employees

 Specifically, the report recommends the following strategies:

  • Foster healthy organizational cultures that do not tolerate aggressive or violent behaviors;
  • Complete appropriate pre-employment background checks;
  • Train employees on workplace violence issues;
  • Resolve serious workplace conflicts before they escalate into violence; and
  • Administer human resources programs properly so as not to introduce undue stress into the workplace.  

According to the report, conflicts in the federal workplace are fairly commonplace. The survey states that 49 percent of supervisors and 37 percent of all employees indicated that they had dealt with at least one serious conflict during the past two years. This survey defined “serious conflict” as one that the survey participant “felt if not addressed would result in negative workforce consequences such as low morale, low organizational productivity or performance, perceived unfairness, absenteeism, attrition, or even fear.”

The findings in the report are based primarily on an analysis of the MSPB’s 2010 Merit Principles Survey, which surveyed 71,910 full-time, permanent, non- Postal federal employees. The workers were asked about their perceptions of their jobs, work environments, supervisors, and agencies. There was a 58 percent response rate and 42,020 surveys were deemed valid.

 The United States lags behind many other industrialized countries that have adopted laws and regulations to address workplace bullying. Last year, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration  passed a workplace anti-bully measure for its own workers. And now the Merit Systems Protection Board is recommending other federal agencies do the same. However, there is no federal or state legislation protecting private sector employees from workplace bullying.

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6 Responses to Federal Agencies Urged to Address Workplace Bullying

  1. J Williams says:

    The Federal Government has programs in place that “address” the need for better management; filing complaints for the hostile work environment etc….but it is politcal eye wash designed to validate that it has been addressed. Does anyone know of a supervisor that was terminated for bullying the supervisees? My experience is that they are promoted, or run off to transfer elsewhere and torture others. Their fundamental behavior is not addressed or corrected.

    • suki says:

      Your experience is also my experience. Not to mention countless other healthcare workers and professionals. Our country has a bizarre hierarchy in which we render power to those that boast the loudest. Genuine personalities have already “lost” the war in our workplaces. I have had upper management practically “whisper” ……sssh yes you are correct Suki…….that manager/supervisor……..was behaving improper. Even to go so far as to state they were verbally and yes physically abusive. But I would have had to be carrying a tiny tape player to ever have been a true witness to it I’ve had countless managers/supervisors admit a physician was outright bullying to nurses. But then in the next breath admit “I am just a nurse, they are the revenue makers……..blah blah blah” This country has been turning into a whole lot of ill behaved, poorly mannered, egotistical harcissists. The saddest part is so many of our fellow citizens turn a blind eye to it. I truly don’t get it. Can’t wait to be able to retire.

  2. C says:

    Many companies have an external portion of the corporation designed to conduct “independent” reviews. Who pays their salary (the answer which leads you to who that independent branch works for)? I was recently told “there are not enough facts to overturn your suspension” NOT “the facts supported your suspension”. All because I stood up to the bully … by the way … I am supervision. Pathetic comes to mind.

  3. suki says:

    Bullying has become a way of life in America today! So pervasive, so extensive and so very crippling. Our society has become a very mean group of human beings. Those that derive pleasure from emotionally causing harm to others is something I will never comprehend.

  4. J Williams says:

    The Military and Federal Government reward Bullies. Those that speak up are targeted for termination or bullied unmercifully until they quit…..or go mad. I believe that as a whole Bullies are drawn into management and recieve classes on how to mistreat they staff. Cookie Cut people that wont admit the king has not clothes.

  5. Drew says:

    Reblogged this on Stop Workplace Bullies…Now!.


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