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The High Cost of Workplace Bullying

As the alleged bullying of Miami Dolphins’ Jonathan Martin continues to make headlines, workplace bullying is once again in the spotlight. Martin’s story, however, is just the most recent of some high profile workplace bullying stories.

Late last year, staff members began coming forward with stories of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s bullying behavior, and it wasn’t so long ago that allegations emerged of bullying against Ann Curry at the ‘Today’ show.

Though we’d like to believe that stories like Martin’s, Christie’s and Curry’s are outliars, the truth is, workplace bullying is not all that uncommon.  A 2012 CareerBuilder survey found that more than one third (35 percent) of workers have felt bullied in the workplace.

And yet, people are still hesitant to talk about it: More than half of workers don’t confront their bullies, and only about a quarter report incidents of workplace bullying. Perhaps the most disheartening finding of all: According to the study, the biggest offenders of workplace bullying are often bosses.

What is Workplace Bullying, Anyway?

Though it’s often up for debate what defines workplace bullying, the Workplace Bullying Institute defines it as “the repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons” and usually appears in the following forms:

  • Verbal abuse.
  • Offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating.
  • Work interference – sabotage – which prevents work from getting done.

More specific examples come from the aforementioned CareerBuilder study, when participants gave the following ways in which they felt bullied at work:

  • Falsely accused of mistakes.
  • Ignored.
  • Held up to different standards than other workers.
  • Constantly criticized.
  • Yelled at by boss in front of co-workers.
  • Belittling comments were made about my work during meetings.
  • Gossiped about.
  • Someone stole credit for my work.
  • Purposely excluded from projects or meetings.
  • Picked on for personal attributes.

The High Cost of Workplace Bullying

Not only can workplace bullying negatively affect the victims (such incidents can cause stress, insomnia, high blood pressure, digestive problems and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other symptoms), but it can also take a toll on the entire company. Consider some of the negative business consequences of workplace bullying:

  • High turnover: Workplace bullying has been linked to higher turnover rates, with some reports showing that not only does workplace bullying prompt victims themselves to leave their jobs, but those who witness it as well.
  • Lost productivity: Bullied employees often lose their motivation to perform and tend to take more sick days due to stress-related illnesses.
  • Damage to the company’s reputation: In today’s social media-driven world, it’s hard to keep a bad reputation at bay. Even if they’re not talking to HR, chances are the bullying victims are telling friends and family about their terrible experiences at your company (and, in the process, turning off potential employees and customers).
  • Potential legal costs: In some circumstances, the employer could be found liable for the bullying that takes place in their organization, and may have to pay the employee for any damages incurred as a result of the bullying – not to mention whatever costs you may have to pay for legal proceedings.

Given both the personal and professional ramifications, it is in the best interest of the employer to keep an eye out for workplace bullying – whether you see it or not, as sometimes the signs are very subtle. Create a zero tolerance policy at your organization, and encourage your employees to come forward if they experience bullying. Remember, ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.
7 comments
gboostmobile
gboostmobile

Hey Curly40, :0)...are you still employed with the company?  I was just thinking...I can remember working with several companies that provided employees with an help hotline.  I know it might seem pointless or hopeless, but maybe you'll have much to gain:0) and nothing to lose by calling and inquiring? I feel your being proactive by even asking your question.  Some cases are very evident, while others go under the radar with covert acts of unethical treatment.  When we accept employment with a company, they can't guarantee your working in a NoBullyZone, or that their companies #1 top-notch has a Masters in Bully!ism ! lol.  But just know your not out there alone my friend!  Be brave, true, and respect yourself.  Being proactive for your livelihood at work will only empower your self-worth and your main purpose!!  Your Job! You love your work!!, take pride in your work, you have a true compassion about what you do!....But notice, I didn't ask you any questions...I simply spoke the truth. Many people are unhappy with their jobs, or talk negatively about their roles and other co-workers.  LET THEM!!!  How self-centered of that bully! I mean really they must be very lonely and depressed!  Don't you think?  I mean it's like that old saying...Misery Enjoys Company!! Well just like I mentioned above...there just isn't any guarantees to non-hired bullies within our workplaces, anymore then to the unhappy, miserable, unappreciative employees who LOVE to create like company.  I think we just might have to create a new employer requirement. A Non~Bully Disclaimer. lol  Keep your head up curly40!!  You know that HR would tell you to report it with your manager.  Well why not start there?  Unless of coarse it is your manager that's created this division?  Back to the drawing board~!!  Just don't stop drawing ~ till you find the right fit.  Good Luck and Think outside the box :0)

gboostmobile
gboostmobile

Hey Curly40, :0)...are you still employed with the company?  I was just thinking...I can remember working with several companies that provided employees with an help hotline.  I know it might seem pointless or hopeless, but maybe you'll have much to gain:0) and nothing to lose by calling and inquiring? I feel your being proactive by even asking your question.  Some cases are very evident, while others go under the radar with covert acts of unethical treatment.  When we accept employment with a company, they can't guarantee your working in a NoBullyZone, or that their companies #1 top-notch has a Masters in Bully!ism ! lol.  But just know your not out there alone my friend!  Be brave, true, and respect yourself.  Being proactive for your livelihood at work will only empower your self-worth and your main purpose!!  Your Job! You love your work!!, take pride in your work, you have a true compassion about what you do!....But notice, I didn't ask you any questions...I simply spoke the truth. Many people are unhappy with their jobs, or talk negatively about their roles and other co-workers.  LET THEM!!!  How self-centered of that bully! I mean really they must be very lonely and depressed!  Don't you think?  I mean it's like that old saying...Misery Enjoys Company!! Well just like I mentioned above...there just isn't any guarantees to non-hired bullies within our workplaces, anymore then to the unhappy, miserable, unappreciative employees who LOVE to create like company.  I think we just might have to create a new employer requirement. A Non~Bully Disclaimer. lol  Keep your head up curly40!!  You know that HR would tell you to report it with your manager.  Well why not start there?  Unless of coarse it is your manager that's created this division?  Back to the drawing board~!!  Just don't stop drawing ~ till you find the right fit.  Good Luck and Think outside the box :0)

MaiT73
MaiT73

Workplace bullies can take on different characteristics. You have the yellers, connivers, and the soft-spoken, but one thing workplace bullies tend to have in common is that they usually are your supervisors, managers or big bosses. However, this does not necessarily exclude co-workers of subordination. Assuming workplace leadership requires skills in developing good judgment and diplomacy when managing subordinates. This is how workplace leaders learn to appreciate the uniqueness of character in others. What leaders forget sometimes is that every employee in the workplace has something special to contribute, but if forgotten to treat co-workers as fellow human beings, then it contributes to the prevention of work progress not only for the bullied victim, but for every employee working for the company, which can affect the company's productivity and ability to run business efficiently in a major way.

MaiT73
MaiT73

Workplace bullies can take on different characteristics. You have the yellers, connivers, and the soft-spoken, but one thing workplace bullies tend to have in common is that they usually are your supervisors, managers or big bosses. However, this does not necessarily exclude co-workers of subordination. Assuming workplace leadership requires skills in developing good judgment and diplomacy when managing subordinates. This is how workplace leaders learn to appreciate the uniqueness of character in others. What leaders forget sometimes is that every employee in the workplace has something special to contribute, but if forgotten to treat co-workers as fellow human beings, then it contributes to the prevention of work progress not only for the bullied victim, but for every employee working for the company, which can affect the company's productivity and ability to run business efficiently in a major way.

MaiT73
MaiT73

curly40 Hi Curly40. You are not alone. I was in as much the same boat as you were. I've been trying to follow up the legislation regarding Workplace Bullying Prevention.

curly40
curly40

Where can someone get help with regard to workplace bullying?  I am a victim and I am looking for help.

curly40
curly40

Where can someone get help with regard to workplace bullying?  I am a victim and I am looking for help.

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