The Devastating Effects Of Workplace Bullying

“Being shaken, anxious, stressed, depressed, losing concentration, and reduced productivity, are just some of the symptoms endured by targets of bullying.” ― Annie Clayton

They say if you put two people in a room together for long enough, they’ll find something to disagree about. That’s normal human interaction - no matter how many things we might have in common, we’re all different in many ways too. We’re the product of our individual experiences and there are bound to be factors that divide us.

However, when differences lead to bullying - especially when the perpetrator wields authority, physical dominance, or any other advantage over the victim - there’s no excusing the behavior. It’s abhorrent and dangerous, which is why responsible companies have a zero-tolerance policy towards it. Apart from the obvious health and wellbeing risks, there’s financial fallout too: Associate Professor Bill Sutton of Stanford University asserted in a study that workplace productivity can decline as much as 40% when employees have been subjected to bullying.

It goes without saying that the primary concern for business leaders should be the safety of their people - though (sadly) some are more likely to be incentivized to take action when they consider the negative impacts of the problem on their bottom line.

If anyone needed any more reason than the devastating effect it has on so many people to take workplace bullying more seriously, here are a few cold hard facts:   

As the findings of the Stanford University study mentioned above demonstrate, there is direct causation between workplace bullying and reduced productivity. Unhappy workers consistently function below par and are prone to making more mistakes. This impacts not only on their own roles but on those of everyone around them, significantly contributing to stress. A study by Health Advocate shows that a million employees report suffering from low productivity due to stress, which costs companies $600 dollars per worker each year. 

Talent retention
When bullying at work becomes intolerable and the company is not doing enough to address the problem and protect the victim, they leave. According to a report by CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, a quarter of employees (24%) believe bullying and harassment are largely ignored in their organization. What’s more, it’s not just the person being bullied who might take their skills elsewhere: Surveys conducted by the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business found that respondents who witness the bullying of their coworkers are even more likely to quit than the actual victims.

Toxic culture
In the absence of effective intervention, workplace bullying can become embedded in the company culture. Bullies who consistently get away with their loathsome behavior feel emboldened not only to continue but to become increasingly more aggressive. The knock-on effect is that others will take the lack of action on the part of the company as an invitation to behave in the same manner. These attitudes will not only wreak havoc in the workplace, they are also liable to manifest in the customer experience.    

Legal and reputational issues
Left to its own devices, there is the real risk that workplace bullying will result in serious repercussions that could include endangerment to the health and even lives not only of those subjected to it but also to the perpetrators. Companies without a well-managed strategy to stamp out this scourge put themselves in legal jeopardy as well as risking the reputation of their brands.

"Workplace bullying ― in any form ― is bad for business. It destroys teamwork, commitment, and morale." ― Tony Morgan