We are all dealing with changes big or small as a result of recent economic events, and for the most part, we’re doing our best to take them in stride. One change that I’ve been reading more and more about lately, however, reveals a disturbing twist in the workplace landscape. According to a recent article on BNET, workplace bullies are out of the sandbox and on the rise in offices everywhere.
Okay, maybe not everywhere. But Preparis, Inc. a leader in work force preparedness solutions, forecasts that incidents of workplace violence could potentially rise as down-on-their-luck U.S. workers anticipate more layoffs this quarter and also continue to feel the pressure of putting food on the table for their families during the busy holiday season. As many workers fear that their homes, finances and jobs are threatened, they may turn to desperate measures to make ends meet – or take their stress out on those they work (and feel most comfortable) with. Preparis also mentions some warning signs of high stress that employers should watch out for.
Results from a 2007 WBI-Zogby survey of 7,440 American workers revealed that 37 percent, or an estimated 54 million people, have been bullied at work, and many lawyers say that bullying-related litigation is on the rise, particularly in light of our recent economic woes.
The effects are being felt abroad, too. The UK’s Chartered Management Institute has found that, in comparing recent results of their workplace bullying survey with survey results from three years ago, bullying appears to be on the rise across all organizations. Jo Causon, director of marketing and corporate affairs at CMI, says, “In the current economic climate, the pressure to deliver is more acute than ever, but the need to perform should not be seen as an excuse to bully.” She adds, “Now, more than ever, the ability of the UK’s managers and leaders to set a good example is paramount.”
Why do workers or managers turn to bullying?
The reasons are varied. Behaviors leading to bullying may stem from an employee feeling rejected or overlooked in getting a promotion or raise, or from being angry because of catching talk of potential layoffs. Of course, this type of behavior can also trace back to psychological problems, alcohol or drug addiction, or stress in one’s personal life, among other things.
Why should you care? The cost to your employees – and you
Bullying is not only harmful for the employees experiencing it, but it also has a significant impact on the workplace environment as a whole. Bullying affects morale, motivation, and productivity, as well as your organization’s bottom line. Over 2 million managers and other professionals leave their jobs every year due solely to workplace unfairness, including bullying.
WBI lists out the costs for employers – which encompass much more than just monetary losses.
- Turnover costs – lost efficiency; recruitment costs, and more
- Litigation costs – attorney costs; settlement fees; etc.
- Talent flight – loss of your best and brightest
- Bad reputation and bad PR
- Former employee sabotage
How to combat workplace bullying
BNet has a great “crash course” on how to handle workplace bullies (and what not to do). While the full document is here and I can’t fully do it justice, I’ve listed out some highlights below:
- Identify a true bully. Understand what constitutes bullying and recognize it in action.
- Confront the person sooner, not later. Act fast to show that your company won’t tolerate bad behavior.
- Enforce a clear action plan. Determine if the person should be written up, get counseling, lose pay, or ultimately be fired.
- Devise your own policy for a civilized workplace. Create a corporate culture of respect.
- 5. Screen for bullies in the recruiting process. Stop the problem from recurring by identifying bullies during the hiring process.
I think that D.H. Lawrence’s character George says it well in Touch and Go:
I think we ought to be able to alter the whole system—but not by bullying, not because one lot wants what the other has got.
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