"How victims tell their stories makes all the difference in whether people believe what the targets are saying is true," said Stacy Tye-Williams, an assistant professor of communications studies and English at the Iowa State University in the US.

Tye-Williams pointed out that when someone experiences serious trauma at the workplace, it is difficult to explain to people what is happening to him/her. If victims are not believed and do not have someone to talk to about their story, then they have a hard time formulating a narrative.

"Even if you are not comfortable as a co-worker reporting the behaviour, letting the victim tell you their story, go with you to have a drink and vent, or just feel believed can help," Tye-Williams added.

Approximately 54 million workers, or 35 percent of US employees, are targeted by a bully at some point in their careers, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute. Instead of reporting it, the researcher found several of the people she interviewed for the study, suffered silently.

More than half reported being bullied by their manager or boss, while others were targeted by a co-worker. It was difficult for many of the victims to find the right words or to put the events in logical order to explain how the bullying started and escalated.

The study appeared in the journal Management Communication Quarterly.


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