Workplace bullying is a serious issue. It’s an issue that I don’t think gets enough attention, considering how big of a problem it is.
I was really shocked and surprised when I learned at how often bullying in the workplace takes place.
A recent survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute shed some important light on this issue.
Let’s look at some of the more interesting numbers from the survey:
- 27% of Americans have suffered abusive conduct at work
- 21% have witnessed bullying
- 56% of the time it was from the top-down (more on this later)
- Hispanics and African american workers experience more of the bullying
- Most employers either deny or discount the bullying
- 38% of co workers did nothing (although I don’t blame them)
These numbers are incredible.
The 2 numbers that really stick out at me, are the fact that 56% of the time, it comes from a manager or senior leader, and that most employers deny or discount (25% and 16% respectively).
This is why I’m such a big fan of having a flat hierarchy. It’s been proven many times that power corrupts, and so it doesn’t surprise me that most of the bullying comes from someone in a higher position of power than you.
For the employer to hide or discount it as not being serious is so stupid. It’s incredibly serious, because it has a major effect on your company culture.
According to a study from the Sauder School of Business at UBC, workers who witness bullying have a stronger urge to quit than those who experience it firsthand.
A lot of people don’t stop to think about this. The bullying doesn’t only affect the person that was bullied. It has a terrible effect on morale. And as the study showed, just witnessing workplace bullying gets people to want to quit.
This is what happened to me personally at a company I used to work for.
I was treated very well, but my coworkers (dare I say my friends) were treated horribly, and as much as you could argue that I had no reason to leave, since I was treated so well, I couldn’t stand the fact that they were treated so poorly.
In the UBC study, they also mention that even if the witnesses don’t quit their jobs, productivity suffers, because they’re not engaged anymore.
Ultimately bullies can hurt the bottom line and need to be dealt with quickly and publicly so that justice is restored to the workplace. – Professor Sandra Robinson, co-author of the study.
A woman named Meredith Boucher in Windsor, Ontario, successfully sued Wal-Mart for experiencing bullying in the workplace.
Here’s the interesting part of the story.
The bullying started because her manager had asked her to do something unethical and illegal, and she refused.
She suffered all kinds of health issues, and lost 25 pounds due to the stress alone.
She was awarded $1.4 million, but the craziest thing is that the manager wasn’t fired. He was transferred, and now manages a store somewhere in the US.
Your relationship with your direct manager or a boss can have a huge effect on your health.
By contrast, employees who worked with “good” leaders were 40% less likely to suffer heart problems”
Being Ignored At Work Is Just As Bad
Recently, Sandra Robinson (co-author of the study I mentioned earlier), came out with another study on the effects of being ignored at work, and found that it’s just as bad, if not worse than being bullied.
The study found that “having no role to play in work culture was more detrimental to one’s well-being than having a negative role to play.”
This, to me, is why the issue of employee engagement is so important.
Humans are so delicate and fragile, and there are so many different ways that they can feel discouraged and lose their engagement levels.
Little things, like saying good morning to your coworkers, or inviting them out to lunch with you can really go a long way.
Everyone just wants to feel included.
This is especially important for new hires, who are so nervous about this new environment, and just want to fit in.
Companies should change their onboarding processes and educate every employee in the company on how important of an issue this is, and how everyone needs to be friendly with each other.
A doctoral thesis by researcher Helen Stockhult, Employees in dialogue: A study on the willingness to do more than the formally expected, found that “social relationships between colleagues are at the root of an employee’s willingness to take on responsibilities beyond their formal job description”.
Similarly, Gallup found that if you have a best friend at your work, you’re much more motivated and productive.