A survey of 3,500 UK staff by Mercer Human Resource Consulting found that 21% of respondents in the IT industry have been bullied once or more in the past year. Seven per cent claimed to have suffered chronic bullying.
Experts in the field said the economic climate is leading to a growing number of bullying incidents across all industry sectors and unless anti-bullying legislation is passed it will only get worse.
Speaking last week at the Ban Bullying at Work Day conference, Roger Lyons, general secretary of IT trade union MSF Amicus, said, "Pressure increases at work with downsizing. People are being asked to do more and more for their organisation, middle management is squeezed from the top for results and sometimes this leads to bullying."
According to the survey, bullying is not confined to employees at the bottom of the organisational hierarchy. In fact, 24% of middle managers and 17% of senior managers said they have been bullied at least once at work in the past year.
Patrick Gilbert, head of organisational research and effectiveness at Mercer, said, "The high rate of bullying among managers is a particular area of concern. If managers are the victims of bullying, they are more likely to bully the people they manage."
Peter Skyte, national secretary of Amicus, believes the IT sector is susceptible to bullying because, along with the long-hours culture and tight deadlines, people are feeling less secure in their jobs. "People do not go out to be bullies, the pressure of the work environment often makes them bully," he said.
The Dignity at Work Bill, which is awaiting a reading in the Commons, aims to extend legislation to victims of bullying who are not protected under the current discriminatory model.