Bullying is on the rise in the voluntary sector and senior managers are bearing the brunt of it, according to this year's Charity Pulse survey.
The poll of charity employees, run by Third Sector and Birdsong Charity Consulting, found the proportion of respondents who felt they had been bullied at work during the past 12 months rose from 12 per cent in 2008 to 16 per cent in 2010.
Most of this rise resulted from a sharp jump in the percentage of senior managers and charity directors saying they had been bullied. In 2008, 16 per cent of them said they had been bullied; last year the figure rose to 19 per cent, and this year it was 24 per cent.
This year's survey also suggested that the employees most likely to suffer bullying were women in their 40s who work for small medical or social welfare charities. Men under the age of 30 who work in fundraising for charities with more than 200 employees were least vulnerable to bullying.
Rachael Maskell, national officer for the community and non-profit sector at the union Unite, said the reported rise in bullying reflected a trend across all sectors. "Bullying is on the increase," she said. "The economic situation is having an impact. There's less money for training, so worse behaviours are being exhibited and there's more competition, leading to a dog-eat-dog culture.
"I would, however, question the figures. They are much lower than in the academic studies. This sector has the highest level of bullying and these results show too good a picture by far."
Ben Willmott, senior public policy adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: "Senior management are likely to be feeling under very extreme pressure, and if they are being bullied it could increase the likelihood of bullying further down the chain. It is not a healthy sign."
The poll also found that those who felt they had been bullied had different reasons for wanting to leave their jobs from those who had not been bullied. Forty-six per cent cited their immediate manager as a reason for leaving, compared with 9 per cent of those who had not been bullied.
A total of 672 people from about 160 charities took part in the survey.