Workplace Bullying is a Type of Psychological Violence: How Harmful it is at Work

Bullying is bad, everybody knows it. Yet, an alarming 75% of workers claimed to have been victims or witnesses of workplace bullying. If only bullying is as morally abominable as sticking a knife in someone or robbing an innocent old lady, maybe the statistics will look a bit less disturbing.

Potential Dangers of Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying is terrifyingly common and detrimental in many ways, causing companies to lose as much as $250 million every year. Social psychologist, Dr. Gary Namie, described it as a type of “psychological violence”, which can appear in different forms even victims may sometimes fail to recognize – including but not limited to: belittling comments, the spread of false rumours, oppressive micromanaging, undermining a person’s work, excluding someone from team meetings.

Whether you’re a fresh graduate hoping to set foot in the competitive job market, a token employee hired solely to create an impression of social inclusiveness, or a woman working hard to survive in a male-dominated industry, that slight desperation to make a solid first impression or to merely keep your job has resulted in a conundrum among grown-ups where people choose to remain silent despite being mistreated at work. It is easy for leaders to turn a blind eye to these matters. However, by encouraging the silence, you are indirectly putting your business in considerable danger:

  • Targets of bullying result in a loss of productivity and performance; the likelihood of them developing health problems increases. Eventually, they will need extra time to recover, or in worse cases, they may end up leaving the company.
  • Your company’s reputation gets ruined when candidates and employees start seeing its work culture as toxic and harmful. It will be a challenge to retain and attract the best talents.
  • You are opening your company to potential litigation. While bullying itself is strictly not illegal, you may face penalization if evidence shows violation against employment equity.

Deal With it Before it’s Too Late

We’ve said it many times, and we’ll say it again. No amount of yoga classes, catered lunches or company swags would be enough to improve job satisfaction when the basics of a positive work environment couldn’t even be fulfilled. Business owners and hiring managers can spend countless hours and brainpower coming up with strategies to improve employee experience, but problems with workplace bullying can escalate aggressively when ignored. Before it’s too late, here’s what every company should do:

  • Enforce anti-bullying policies and codes of conduct
  • Revise procedures for dealing with or investigating incidents or complaints
  • Offer incentives to employees by rewarding them for bringing problems to the leaders’ attention
  • Make practical internal arrangements by transferring, demoting or terminating the assailant
  • Provide mental and physical assistance to victims by offering paid leaves or health supports

Whether you like it or not, reality shows that management is most responsible when bullying occurs. As a leader, think about it – isn’t managing your staff the purpose of having authority and power in the first place?