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Workplace Bullying

The Business Case Against Bullies:
Boost Shareholder Value — Stop a Bully Today!

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Why should business managers care about workplace bullying?

Isn't bullying just a personality conflict that people can work out amongst themselves? Bullying doesn't seem to be costing our business anything, what's the problem?

Part of the problem of workplace bullying is that it flies under the radar of management. The issue of bullying is confused with a simple personality conflict or legitimate management practices. Everyone who doesn't get along with others is not a bully and tough management styles or unpopular management decisions don't necessarily constitute bullying.

Let's back up and look at a definition of bullying. Dr. Gary Namie of the Workplace Bullying Institute > provides this definition:

"Bullying at work is repeated, health-harming mistreatment that takes one or more of the following forms: verbal abuse; conduct that is threatening, intimidating or humiliating; or sabotage of work such that legitimate business interests are undermined."

This definition of bullying begins to provide clues to how workplace bullying can not only be harmful to targeted individuals but to your business and your bottom line.

First, bullying is "repeated". Bullying is an ongoing attack that is not an isolated incident. Targets of workplace bullies are subjected to sustained "health-harming treatment" that takes it's toll over time. The phrase "health-harming" should be setting off alarm bells for managers concerned about thier employees well being and thier company's productivity and profitability.

Targets of bullying are threatened and humiliated daily for months, sometimes years. Bullies escalate the rhetoric and encourage or intimidate co-workers to join in the abuse. The target's character is assassinated as bullies approach supervisors and managers with malicious complaints about the targeted employee designed to misinform those to whom the target might appeal for help. Bullies slander their target to anyone who will listen; department heads, senior management, human resources and union representatives are all informed about how the target is deserving of nothing but contempt and that they must be gotten rid of.

By the time targeted employees complain to managers about workplace bullying it is often too late. Due to the stress and impacts on their health targets can be emotionally drained and showing signs of the strain. Bullies remain glib and credible and continue to manipulate managers with uncanny guile. By this stage we are often dealing with a mobbing. Mobbing is workplace bullying where others have been recruited by the bully to participate in further attacks. The target is demoralized, humiliated, isolated and finally eliminated. - Speak Out Now Against School and Workplace Bullying, Mobbing and Harassment

Protect Your Business and Your Employees from the Serious Costs of Bullying


There are several ways that bullies cost your company and collectively the effects of bullying are staggering.

Management, Human Resources and perhaps EAP providers become involved, but their minds have already been poisoned by the bully. Rather than listen to the victim and deal with workplace bullying it is easier to threaten the victim with termination unless they quietly tolerate the abuse. The bullying continues with management now also actively threatening the victim with disciplinary measures and termination.

Eventually the victim is terminated once their mental, emotional and physical health is destroyed. Their careers and financial futures are ruined. Many victims of this kind of abuse are never able to rejoin the workforce. According to a study in Sweden approximately 12 percent of those who committed suicide had been subjected to this kind of psychological torture at work.

This brutal process is being played out every day in workplaces around the world while management and human resources simply accept the costs as part of doing business. So what are the costs of bullying? There are several ways that bullies cost your company and collectively the effects of bullying are staggering.

Targets will spend a great deal of time trying to deal with the abuse. Talking to co-workers and trying to network to gain support all the while bullies are running around spending time cutting them down. In addition to the time lost are the projects, sales and achievement of business goals that were neglected while the bully and their victim remained distracted.

Workplace bullying doesn't happen in isolation. Entire departments are affected. Lost productivity, low morale, sense of betrayal by management, unwillingness to put forth an extra effort or contribute creative ideas all impact your ability to function as a cohesive team. This pall extends to relationships with your customers. Employees that are stressed, depressed, disgruntled, even suicidal are less likely to provide creative solutions, win proposals or take care of your customers.

In addition to these hidden "soft costs" that are currently being absorbed by businesses are the obvious costs associated with sick leave, short and long term disability claims, wrongful dismissal suits, human rights tribunals and their attendant legal costs.

Bullies have been rewarded for their behavior
and have successfully manipulated management
into doing their bidding.

Your company's reputation is also jeopardized both with prospective employees and the public. Companies with bad bullying track records may find it more difficult to recruit quality employees who are apprehensive about joining a company that they feel holds their well-being in such low regard, which brings us to still more costs of bullying.

Since workplace bullies generally target your best and brightest employees (as these represent the greatest threat to bullies) you will need to replace them once the bullying and mobbing cycle has run its course and they have been terminated. There are the recruiting costs as well as the wasted investement in training of the now terminated victim and the ongoing training costs of your newly hired replacements.

I say "ongoing training costs" as this is not the end. Once bullies have successfully gotten a target terminated they are rarely satisfied and before long they select a new target and the cycle of costs to your business begins anew. Why shouldn't it? Bullies have been rewarded for their behavior and have successfully manipulated management into doing their bidding.

Many bullies are even promoted to positions of greater authority as their aggressive tactics are mistaken for leadership qualities. This problem may even be exacerbated by the bully in your organization already being a supervisor or manager. The majority of bullying occurs where there is a power differential between the bully and target.

From this position the bully can do even more damage and perpetuate the cycle by only promoting like-minded individuals. They also have access to the tools to manipulate and undermine subordinates like never before and the ability to cost your company and expose you to liability like never before.

Long story short - bullies are just too expensive to keep around.

But what is the manager whose business is beleaguered by bullies to do?

How to stop bullying? As a business leader it is essential that you create a culture that is inhospitable to bullies. Your employees must be confident that you will take reports of bullying seriously and take steps to stop bullying.

Implement a workplace bullying policy and back it up!



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