While physical bullying has heavily declined from the days when labor-intensive production facilities would often be the site of fistfights among workers, the cost of emotional bullying is significant and disruptive in today’s workplace. According a VitalSmarts survey of 2000 employees, 1 in 5 respondents said that coping with a bully costs them seven or more hours per week in extra work. Based on the U.S. government’s average national wage of roughly $44,000, this translates to almost $8,000 a year in lost productivity per employee. Further studies have found it is not only the victim who is affected by the at of bullying, witnesses also report being emotionally affectedly witnessing bullying in the workplace and this having a negative knock-on effect in their productivity, especially if they feel powerless to do anything about it.
The Bully: Not all bullies set out to hurt people. In our experience as coaches and as Maxwell points out, bullies often don’t realize how their communication is being perceived, and want to change once it comes to their attention. He described an organization where senior scientists began to leave because the division manager was a bully. The manager felt that 98% of the time, he was fine, and 2% of the time, he would lose his temper. He didn’t see that as a terrible batting average. His coworkers said they were walking on eggshells 98% of the time, and then 2% of time the mask slipped and they saw the real person. The manager in this instance set out to change his behavior.
The Victim: Another new study finds that workplace bullying often becomes a vicious cycle where the more stressed and anxious victims become, the more likely they are to be targeted for abuse. Years of research on workplace bullying have shown that it can pose serious consequences for victims, ranging from depression to burnout.
In addition to damaging health and productivity, psychological scientists Alfredo Rodríguez-Muñoz (Complutense University of Madrid), Bernardo Moreno-Jiménez (Autonoma University of Madrid), and Ana Isabel Sanz-Vergel (University of East Anglia), found that the stress and anxiety caused by bullying grinds workers down, leaving them more vulnerable to further persecution.
We found that being exposed to workplace bullying leads to deteriorated mental health and decreased well-being,” says Sanz-Vergel. “But at the same time, showing anxious behavior puts the victim in a weak position and makes them an easy target – leading to a spiral of abuse.
The researchers hypothesized that the strain of dealing with bullying exhausts workers’ mental resources, leaving them less able to stand up to abuse. In the same vein, psychological strain may lead to poorer job performance which in turn results in less support from colleagues and supervisors.
At Tall Trees we believe that the answer to this problem is Coaching and Team Development Programs targeting both bully’s and victims, with a focus on changing behaviors and developing communication competence.
As the researchers conclude:
“Intervention strategies that focus on building employees’ resources such as self-efficacy and social support may also reduce the perceptions of workplace bullying victimization,”
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