White men are more likely to report being bullied at work than white women or people from ethnic minorities, a new study has found.

Researchers analysed survey data on 3,494 Britons and found that white men are more likely than any other group to say that they had been humiliated, insulted or ignored at work.

Dr Tina G. Patel and Professor Daiga Kamerāde, of the University of Salford, and Luke Carr, Manchester Metropolitan University, say this challenges the current consensus that ethno-racial minority groups, women especially, are the most likely to report bullying in the workplace setting.

In an article in Work, Employment and Society journal published today [Tuesday, 30 April] they suggest this is because white men are more likely to be found in professional careers where these dominating groups [white men] were more likely to compete against each other using bullying methods.

The researchers analysed data from the survey, carried out in 2007/08 to study the combined effect of gender and ethnicity on bullying rates. Their somewhat unexpected findings include:

  • White men reported the highest rates of bullying (60%). The rate for other groups were: white women (54%), black men (51%), black women (44%) Asian men (39%) and Asian women (38%).
  • White staff reported the highest rates of bullying at work (57%), followed by black staff (48%) and Asian staff (39%).
  • Men were more likely than women to report that they had experienced workplace bullying (58% and 53%, respectively).
  • Among white men, 18% reported being insulted, 10% humiliated or ridiculed, 37% were given unmanageable amounts or work or deadlines, 35% had their opinion ignored and 20% had necessary information withheld from them. Other groups had higher rates for other aspects of bullying.

The researchers adjusted the data to exclude the effects of age, education and type of job in order to study the effect of ethnicity and gender in isolation. They found that white women and people from ethnic minorities were still much less likely to report bullying at work.

In the article they say that: The key finding, somewhat unexpectedly and contrary to our hypothesis, is that, in general, white men were more likely to report workplace bullying. This contradicts existing evidence that ethno-racial minority groups are more likely to be, or report being, bullied.

White men are most likely to report experiencing specific bullying behaviours that make it difficult for them to complete their work.

This unexpected finding can be framed within the heavily masculine context of many workplaces, especially in those cultures found in the UK and USA. In such environments, these dominating groups were more likely to compete against each other in indirect-aggressive ways.”

The researchers also say that women from ethnic minorities may have under-reported bullying. It is plausible that women from an ethno-racial minority group felt the most uncomfortable coming forward to make any bullying reports, resulting in underreporting of actual events. This could be because of previous negative experiences of ethno-racial minority groups in relation to discrimination in the workplace.

Dr Tina G. Patel is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology with expertise in racialised / ethnically defined marginalisation. Professor Daiga Kamerāde is Professor of Work and Wellbeing with expertise in work, wellbeing and mental health. Both are based at the Centre for Research on Inclusive Society at the University of Salford. Luke Carr is a former undergraduate student at the University of Salford.

White is defined as white people of British, Irish or other backgrounds. The Asian category included men and women who were from Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and other Asian backgrounds. Black comprised men and women who were black Caribbean, black African or of other black backgrounds.

Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website | + posts

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.