LGBTQIA+ People Bullied at School Are Bullied at Work — But Not For the Reason You Think

Woman Bullied at Work


AnnaMarie Houlis
AnnaMarie Houlis
Bullying doesn't stop when school's out — at least not for LGBTQIA+ individuals, according to new research. 
A study by Anglia Ruskin University published in the Manchester School journal found that around one in three LGBTQIA+ folks who are bullied at school are likely to go on to have similar experiences in their workplaces. The study asked 400 LGBTQIA+-identifying individuals about their experiences in school and their current workplaces, and it found consistency in how they've been treated throughout their lives. According to the research, 35.2 percent of gay and bisexual men who'd experienced frequently bullying in school experience the same treatment in their workplaces now. Likewise, 29 percent of lesbian women said the same.
The research isn't shocking — a 2018 Government Equalities Office survey found that at least 40 percent of LGBTQIA+ respondents had experienced a verbal harassment or physical violence between 2016 and 2017. And, according to Catalyst research, there's no federal law protecting the rights of employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the United States, nor is there any state-level protection for sexual orientation in 28 of the 50 US states or for gender identity in 30 of them.
Bullying occurs in the workplace more often than might be obvious. The bullying might not look the same in school and at work, especially given that the participants in the new study were about 37 years old on average, which means they would have been around school-age between 1985 and 1997. A lot has changed since then, but not enough has changed. And even subtle bullying in the workplace can be hugely detrimental to one's career.
When explaining their experiences, 73 percent of gay men said they were either constantly, frequently or sometimes bullied — only 9.9 percent were able to say that they were never victims to it. Among lesbian women, 59 percent had experienced constant, frequent or occasional bullying. And they've been respectively dealing with constant, frequent or occasional bullying at work, since.
Perhaps that's why 56 percent of gay men and 47 percent of lesbian women were "dissatisfied" with their jobs. It seems as tough bullying is a chronic problem for LGBTQIA individuals.
"This could be for a number of reasons — school-age bullying could be more likely to lead to low self-esteem, a difficulty in forming trusting relationships or a greater risk of poor mental health; factors like these may make it more likely they will experience bullying in the workplace later in life," says author Dr. Nick Drydakis. "Post school-age bullying victims might exhibit characteristics of vulnerability, such as sub-assertive behaviors, which make them attractive targets for unfavorable treatments and evaluations from colleagues and employers in the workplace. In turn, individuals, firms and society as a whole face long-lasting negative effects, which appear to begin in the playground."
Dr. Drydakis also points to a negative association between bullying LGBTQIA+ individuals and job satisfaction.
"Interestingly, we found that the existence of a workplace group for [LGBTQ+] individuals appeared to result in better job satisfaction, perhaps a lesson for employers wanting a more satisfied and motivated workforce," he says.

More on bullying in the workplace: 

AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog,, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.