The Profound Effect of Workplace Bullying
Author Name: TrainingABC
Posted: 08-05-2018 07:33 AM
Synopsis: Workplace bullying is a huge problem in today's workplace and its impact has a profound effect on employee morale, productivity and employee retention. However, there are ways to combat it and improve your organization's culture and bottom line.
Our offices are inherently stressful. Not only does every employee feel the pressure to do their jobs to the best of their abilities, but personalities clash, tempers run short, and fatigue sets in after spending day after day in an enclosed environment.
While this may be the default setting for many offices, some offices may be even worse. Workplace bullying may be the norm. There may be situations where a manager berates, belittles, or generally harasses colleagues in the office—for whatever reason. In fact, one study revealed that somewhere between 25 and 50 percent of the workforce has been subject to some form of bullying in the workplace.
While workplace bullying is a long-lasting phenomenon, this type of misconduct has remained in the public consciousness ever since the rise of the #MeToo movement. Pull up your favorite news site and you will undoubtedly find stories of harassment, bullying, or other workplace misconduct.
Ultimately, workplace bullying has deleterious effects not only on the bullied individual, but on the organization itself. But how specifically? There are four specific areas that are impacted by workplace bullying.
Lower Employee Morale
The most obvious effect of workplace bullying is that the bullied employee’s morale will suffer. He or she will feel scared, intimidated, and unwelcome. The bully—no matter how weak he or she actually is—creates a negatively charged environment that can destroy the inner motivation of the affected employee.
Often, the bullied employee doesn’t feel like they are working in a safe place. From the bullied employee’s perspective, the bully is powerful and can exert his or her will against the employee whenever they desire. There is real fear at work and this fear leads to stress and anxiety.
Along with this, many bullied employees hesitate to report workplace bullying to the bully’s superiors or human resources for fear of retaliation. They think “Who is going to believe me over the bully?” and trudge along silently, trying to stay out of the bully’s way. Because they recognize that the organization isn’t going to do much to stop the bully’s actions, the bullied employee feels even more down. They are less likely to stay late or volunteer for additional projects, for instance, as their primary goal is to spend as little time with the bully as possible.
One more thing on this point. Not only will the morale of the affected employee decrease due to workplace bullying, but the morale of that employee’s colleagues will be impacted. While they will try to help the victim, they will see that the organization isn’t doing much to stop bad workplace behavior. Again, this leads to dissatisfied, unmotivated employees, who feel less connected to the workplace than an organization that refuses to tolerate bullying.
Loss of Productivity
It’s clear that an employee’s morale will suffer from workplace bullying. Along with that, he or she will be less productive at work. A pattern of bullying leads the victim to feel unmotivated and dispassionate toward their work. Time that should be spent on their actual job is instead spent thinking about how to avoid the bully. And once the bullying actually occurs, the bullied employee will spend time after the incident focused on how they could have confronted the bully or could have prevented future incidents.
While some may think that the loss of productivity only affects the bullied employee, experts say otherwise. According to Stanford University professor Robert Sutton, productivity can decline by as much as 40 percent when workers are distracted by bullying.
Bullying affects the entire organization, as this lost productivity flows down to your organization’s bottom line. For instance, it’s harder for a team with a bully to collaborate than a team without the bully. The bully imposes damaging constraints on the team, including the inability of employees to speak freely or to challenge the bully. This leads to less creativity, less innovation, less cohesiveness, and more isolation within your organization.
Lower Employee Retention
Workplace bullying also results in lower employee retention at your organization. Simply put, if an employee feels like a bully is not going stop, he or she will leave your organization. It may take longer for some employees rather than others, but rest assured that they will ultimately leave.
Think about it from the employees’ perspective. Your organization undoubtedly has competitors and those competitors, no matter how financially successful they are, may have a better working environment and culture. If you’re an employee that is being bullied on a consistent basis, there may be little to nothing stopping you from going to a competitor. Further, the bullied employee’s colleagues may feel more pressure to leave the organization. If one of their close colleagues is bullied, what’s stopping them from being the next victim?
Even when bullied employees leave your organization, the damage isn’t done. Your organization will take on a reputation—and not a great one. Employees who have departed your organization due to bullying will undoubtedly speak with prospective employees. They will share their stories about your organization’s toxic culture and, ultimately, will deter the best people from working at your organization. The damage can be long-lasting.
Issues of Employee Health
Finally, workplace bullying can seriously damage employee health. Working under a manager or superior who bullies an employee can cause that employee to feel intense anxiety or stress. While they may not express that anxiety to their colleagues, the anxiety is real. Some of the medical issues that can result from workplace bullying include anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, or migraine headaches.
Not only will those medical issues affect the well-being of your bullied employees, but those issues will financially affect your organization, as those employees may be seeking more medical appointments or prescription drugs. Even beyond this, bullied employees take more sick days and may be out of the office when you need them the most.
While managers may not be responsible for all elements of employees’ health—they are adults after all—managers can take a significant step in preventing unforced harm to employee health by preventing workplace bullying. Doing so will result in healthier—and happier—employees.
Stop Bullying Today
Clearly, workplace bullying is a problem. It negatively affects the bullied individuals, the other employees who watch the bullying occur, and your organization’s bottom line.
If you are a manager, you must take swift action to stop and deter bullying. There are many options. You can introduce mandatory harassment or workplace bullying training. You can establish an anonymous mailbox or reporting system where employees (not only the victim) can report instances of bullying. Most importantly, however, you must ensure that every allegation of bullying is thoroughly and completely investigated. Doing this will not only bring peace of mind to your employees, but it will send a strong signal to workplace bullies.
Rather than appear on the front pages of your local newspaper, act today to stop workplace bullying. Your employees will undoubtedly thank you. But beyond that, you will have the peace of mind that you have a healthy work environment that will bring out the best in your employees. What’s there to lose?
TrainingABC's best selling training video - Workplace Bullying Prevention Made Simple - is a great way to train your workplace about bullying.