By Robert DiGiacomo, for Yahoo! HotJobs
If the equivalent of the schoolyard bully is now sharing your cubicle or -- worse -- is your boss, you're not alone.
More than one in thee 3 workers -- or 54 million people -- report being bullied at work, according to a Zogby International poll. Nearly 75 percent of the bullies are in managerial positions, and 55 percent of their victims are workers, Zogby found.
Below are some warning signs to watch out for and hints for coping with an abusive manager or coworker.
Is the Boss a Bully or Just Demanding?
Executive coach Laura Crawshaw, author of Taming the Abrasive Manager: How to End Unnecessary Roughness in the Workplace, has identified five signs that your boss is a bully.
The signs include overreacting to situations, micromanaging others, acting in a superior and condescending way, humiliating employees in front of colleagues, and taking a threatening stance, as in, "It's my way or the highway."
But Crawshaw doesn't like to use the "B" word. "The 'bully' term implies they intend to do harm," she says. "In fact, this is not what I've found. Essentially, they are blind to the impact of their behavior on others. Generally, they don't see it."
To foster a positive workplace, employers need to first recognize the bullying problem, according to Garry Mathiason, a senior partner in the San Francisco office of Littler Mendelson, a top employment and labor law firm.
Employers should then create policies establishing guidelines for unacceptable behavior and ways to report such conduct, and make sure everyone -- from the CEO to the file clerk -- practices what they're preaching.
"There has to be encouragement of reporting problems, and there have to be alternative channels -- human resources, a senior manager or the legal department -- if you can't report it directly to your immediate supervisor because he or she is the problem," Mathiason said.
The Mind of the Bully
The bully boss, according to Crawshaw, displays overaggressive behavior out of fear, not confidence.
"When they get anxious about how they're going to be perceived, they attack," Crawshaw says. "It's helpful for people who are subordinates to realize it's not their problem -- it's the boss's problem."
Preparing an Exit Strategy
If faced with an unresolved bullying situation, should you stay or should you go? Although some workplace bullying experts believe it's possible to resolve such situations, most workers under attack by a bully end up changing jobs, according to a Zogby poll for the Workplace Bullying Institute.
The 2007 survey found 77 percent of those who said they were bullied chose to leave their employer or were fired, forced out or moved to a different position within the same company.
"Our research is clear about how the bullying stops -- the targets lose the jobs they love," said Gary Namie, director of the Workplace Bullying Institute.
Bottom Line vs. Cohesive Team
But companies would be better served, Mathiason believes, by adhering to policies that value the victim over the bully, even if the latter is a strong contributor to the bottom line.
"If you decide in favor of the harmony and teamwork of the group -- and take the short-term deficit of losing what is otherwise a good performer -- you're going to be more successful as an organization, because the team can always outperform the individual," Mathiason says.