Gender Differences in Workplace Bullying

 Workplace bullying is defined as:

Deliberate, repeated, and hurtful acts that take place of work and/or in the course of employment.  Bullying may include direct or indirect harassment, professional misconduct, or abuse of power.  It is characterized by unfair treatment, rumor spreading, or any repeated action you find offensive, intimidating, malicious, or insulting.  Any actions that could reasonably be regarded as undermining an individual’s right or dignity at work is considered workplace bullying.

The following findings are from our sample of 1,117 university staff.  Of the sample, 64% was female and 26% male.  Gender differences found in workplace bullying are detailed below.

Workplace Bullying

  • 70% of female respondents reported having been bullied at work, compared to 53% of male respondents.  This difference was statistically significant.
  • 61% of female victims were academic staff while 39% were general staff.
  • 73% of female academic staff who responded reported being bullied while 66% of general staff.
  • 56% of female victims reported being bullied by another female in the workplace while 44% were bullied by a male.
  • The majority of female victims (60%) reported the bully was someone with authority over them like a manager, while 20% reported it was a co-worker at a higher university ranking, 16% were bullied by a co-worker at the same ranking, and 4% bullied by a co-worker at a lower ranking.

Gender Comparisons

Comparisons of the scores of those who had experienced bullying and those who had not on subscales of Maslach’s Burnout Inventory found that staff members who were victims of bullying reported significantly more occupational stress than non-victims.

T-tests comparing female and male victims of workplace bullying indicated that female victims reported experiencing more forms of workplace bullying, more emotional exhaustion, and more effects of victimization.  Male victims reported higher levels of workplace stress resulting in depersonalization.

Male and female victims did not differ significantly in the percentage who were still working with the bully (67% Female, 70% Male), whether they felt it had effected their health (70% Female, 68% Male) or performance (70% Female, 62% Male), or whether workplace bullying had led them to consider leaving their job at the university (74% Female, 69% Male).


Again I must point out the limitations of this sample:

  • This is not a random sample and should not be considered representative of all university staff.
  • It is possible that those who have experienced bullying at work were more likely to respond to the on-line survey.  If so, this would limit generalizability of the prevalence numbers.  However, responses from more victims would strengthen the findings regarding the different forms of bullying and the effects reported by staff.

This research as conducted at the end of 2005 and the beginning of 2006 through an anonymous survey on workplace bullying in New Zealand Universities.  The findings from this research are in the process of being written up for submission to academic journals.  Please do not cite without permission.  Contact Dr. Juliana Raskauskas,, with any inquiries.


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