White men are more likely to report being bullied at work than people from ethnic minorities, says research

White men are more likely to report being bullied at work than are 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 under reporting 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. 

For more information, please contact: 

Tony Trueman
British Sociological Association
Tel: 0044 (0) 7964 023392 


  1. The British Workplace Behaviour Survey is the most comprehensive survey of workplace bullying and harassment in Britain. The sample consisted of 1,789 women and 1,705 men, 78.2% white and 21.8% ethno-racial minorities (11.2% Asian, 8.9% black, 1.7% mixed race), aged between 16 and 82, who were currently, or in the previous two years, employed.

    The respondents were asked: ‘Thinking about your current/most recent employer over the last two years, how often, if at all, have you experienced any of the following in a negative way, this could be from people you work with or from clients or customers?’. They were provided with a list of 14 items and the following answer options: ‘never’, ‘just once’, ‘now and then’, ‘monthly’, ‘weekly’, ‘daily’, ‘refuse’, ‘don’t know’. Respondents who had reported at least one of these types of bullying behaviours were coded as 1. Respondents who had not experienced any of these types of bullying behaviours were coded as 0.

    Bullying behaviour was defined as: ‘gossip and rumours being spread about you; being insulted or having offensive remarks made about you;  persistent criticism of your work or performance that is unfair; people excluding you from their group; being treated in a rude or disrespectful way; being treated unfairly compared with others in your workplace;  being humiliated or ridiculed in connection with your work; hints or signals from others that you should quit your job; someone continually checking up on you or your work when it is not necessary; being given an unmanageable workload or impossible deadlines; pressure from someone else to do work below your competence level; having your views or opinions ignored; someone withholding information, which affects your performance; pressure from someone else not to claim something that is rightfully yours’.

  2. Work, Employment and Society journal is published by the British Sociological Association and Sage. The BSA’s charitable aim is to promote sociology. It is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Company Number: 3890729. Registered Charity Number 1080235 www.britsoc.co.uk