CHICAGO (CBS) — A local workplace analyst warned Tuesday that workplace bullying is affecting more than 50 million people across the country, and costing businesses the service of valued employees.

John Challenger, CEO of the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, said workplace bullying can cause lost productivity, higher turnover, and a hostile atmosphere in the office or plant.

Challenger said one Zogby poll estimated 53 million U.S. workers are affected by bullying at work, with 34.4% of all surveyed reporting they’d been bullied at work – intimidated, harassed, or threatened by a boss or co-worker.

“Unreasonable intimidating treatment, usually it’s someone who’s in a position of authority, who feels threatened by the victim,” he said. “But some cases, just a bully who is insecure about his or her job.”

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Challenger said further polling shows the vast majority of workers aren’t certain whether their company will do anything about bullying if it is pointed out.

“A good manager needs to be talking with his or her people, listening to what the issues are. Sometimes, you won’t hear it from the person who’s the victim, you’ll hear it from others,” Challenger said.

Challenger said bullying is singling out a particular person or group for intimidating treatment, unjustified blame for problems, and exclusion from company activities.

He said the effect of bullying is higher absentee rates, lower productivity, and depression and stress on the part of the victim.

Challenger said there’s a big difference between an office bully and a hyper-critical boss. He said the bully maliciously singles out a person or group for ridicule or intimidation, while the hypercritical boss criticizes everyone equally, often with reasonable justification.

Challenger said victims of bullying need to see the human resources department to get it stopped.