That means bullying is four times more common than sexual harassment or racial discrimination, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute. And while there can be legal consequences with sexual or racial harassment or discrimination, there is no legal protection against bullying at work.
"We are taking a pounding daily from bullies, but for the most part it is still an invisible problem," said psychologist Gary Namie, who runs the institute. "And it has huge consequences and costs businesses a fortune."
A 2013 study showed that the adult targets of bullying can suffer deeply as a consequence. They experience higher incidents of alcoholism, anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue and insomnia. They struggle with concentration issues and poorer health and have lower self-esteem.
If so many people are victims of bullying, why do they come home and watch it on television?
Studies show watching others suffer in part "satiates a feeling of vengeance," Coyne says. So if a victim can't get revenge at work, at least they can watch someone else suffer. Namie believes watching someone humiliated on TV also makes people feel safer and more comfortable because, in this case, at least it is not happening to them.
"We bemoan the loss of compassion in society, but we revere this severe level of aggression in these programs, and I think it is a real problem," Namie said.
Yet reality TV remains popular and is likely to continue to dominate our airwaves because people keep watching.
"In the end, being nice makes for dull entertainment," Namie said.