New Udemy Report Finds Workplaces are Fraught With Behavior Issues and Boundary Confusion

Workplace Bullying Runs Rampant, and Businesses Don’t Know How to Respond

Udemy In Depth: 2019 Workplace Boundaries Report (Graphic: Business Wire)

SAN FRANCISCO--()--Udemy, the global marketplace for learning and teaching online, today released the “2019 Workplace Boundaries Report,” which explores the treacherous state of personal-professional boundaries in the workplace. Udemy asked full-time employees how behavior issues in the workplace are impacting performance, productivity, and employee satisfaction. The report covers topics such as bullying, bringing pets to work, to hug or not to hug, and the appropriateness of social media usage.

The findings reveal that employees of all ages feel challenged by the blurring of lines between their personal and professional lives and also by relaxed workplace norms. Key findings include:

  • 66% of all employees have either witnessed or experienced bullying in the workplace.
  • 52% believe that hugging does not belong in a professional environment.
  • 66% believe that their coworkers should not be allowed to bring pets to work.
  • 62% believe that coworkers shouldn’t bring their kids to work.
  • 63% believe that workout or athleisure clothes are not appropriate in the office.

“With open floor plans, always-on communication, social media, and casual workplaces, today’s employees feel increasing pressure to share more with their coworkers, often leading to crossed boundaries," said Cara Brennan Allamano, senior vice president of HR, Udemy. "As our workplace becomes more casual and the impact of the #MeToo movement continues to reverberate, companies must equip managers and employees with the soft skills needed to address shifting expectations around boundaries at work."

Social media creates boundary confusion

Virtually everyone uses social media to some extent, but employees are unsure how to manage professional relationships in this new context:

  • 46% feel pressured to accept a coworker’s social media friend request.
  • 63% keep their social media profiles private because they don’t want coworkers to follow them.
  • Only 22% are connected to their managers on LinkedIn, despite its reputation as a professional networking site.

“There are a number of reasons that business leaders are struggling with workplace boundaries,” said Deborah Grayson Riegel, CEO of Talk Support, who has taught management and communication at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “It often starts when managers in organizations wrongly assume that their workforce ’just knows’ how to interact with each other, not realizing that these expectations must be explicitly discussed and often vary from company to company as well as across cultures. In organizations where managers aren’t given training, coaching, and ongoing support from their leaders on how to set these expectations and give (and receive) ongoing feedback, the problem is likely to persist—and grow."

Managers are ill-prepared and under pressure

Another contributing factor to confusion over workplace boundaries comes when managers are confronted with situations they haven’t previously encountered or have had no prior training. As a result, managers don’t know how to handle the stress and team dynamics, let alone the guidelines for managing themselves.

  • 59% of managers (vs. 46% of workers) feel pressured to work through lunch or eat lunch with coworkers (63% of managers vs. 50% of workers).
  • 47% of managers (vs. 30% of workers) say they feel obligated to work late hours because of employer perks.


The online survey was conducted by Toluna Group on behalf of Udemy in July 2019 among more than 1,000 U.S. office workers who are in full-time jobs and older than 18 years. The complete methodology is available upon request. This report is part of an ongoing research series examining the changing state of the modern workforce.

About Udemy:

With a mission to improve lives through learning, Udemy is the online learning destination that helps students, businesses, and governments gain the skills they need to compete in today’s economy. More than 40 million students are mastering new skills from expert instructors teaching over 130,000 online courses in topics from programming and data science to leadership and team building. For companies, Udemy for Business offers an employee training and development platform with subscription access to 3,500+ courses, learning analytics, as well as the ability to host and distribute their own content. Udemy for Government is designed to upskill workers and prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow. Udemy is privately owned and headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in Denver, India, Ireland, Turkey, and Brazil.


Romina Ederle
Senior Director of Global Communications

Release Summary

Udemy releases the “2019 Workplace Boundaries Report,” which explores the treacherous state of personal-professional boundaries in the workplace.


Romina Ederle
Senior Director of Global Communications