Addressing the issue of workplace bullying
A survey conducted by Careerbuilder.in revealed that almost 55% of Indian workers are bullied at their workplace. Workplace bullying involves behaviour that may comprise aggression and intimidation characterised by persistence and unequal power relationships. In other words, it can be defined as a behavioural pattern from boss, subordinates, colleagues, etc. that can cause significant mental and emotional harm, and physical harm in some cases too.
While bullying in schools and colleges has received significant attention from the country’s governing bodies and regulation has been enacted, workplace bullying continues to be a harsh reality as the offenders continue to inflict harm operating within the policies and norms of the workplace.
Consequences of Workplace Bullying
A study by Unison (one of the largest trade unions in the UK) showed that workplace bullying can have devastating physical effects on the target. As the sufferers try to absorb everything that happens to them, they may have to deal with an existential crisis. This can lead to loss of sleep and focus which ultimately affects productivity at work. In extreme cases, the victims may also resort to self-harm or suicide.
When the victims are constantly humiliated, offended or intimidated on a regular basis, it can affect their mental health severely. Panic attacks are quite common sufferers of workplace bullying when they witness another person being bullied or recall their own previous experiences. Other than being a psychological effect, panic attacks often result in breathing difficulty.
The repetitive series of events like invalid criticism, threat, mockery, social elimination, racial harassment, false allegations, etc. may give rise to feelings of apathy, degradation and isolation which ultimately paves the way for depression. Depression, as we all are aware of can cause troublesome outcomes and effects, especially if the victim decides to keep all the shame, guilt and pain to himself.
The repetitive occurrence of traumatic experiences not only impacts the physical and mental health of the victim, but seriously damages work culture and productivity. According to Bill Sutton of Stanford University, the productivity of a workplace can decline by 40% due to bullying.
Effect on Employers
Workplace bullying may lead to increased chances of absenteeism and employee turnover. In a study conducted by noworkplacebullies.com, it is suggested that 30% of employees who are bullied have increased chances of resigning from their job while 20% of those who are witnesses to bullying may also resign from their posts. In addition to absenteeism and employee turnover, employers can suffer in various adverse ways due to workplace bullying such as:
- Reduced productivity
- Embarrassing legal claims
- Additional expense to recruit and train new people
- Poor public image
- Lack of employee loyalty
- Negative publicity
Ways to Address the Issue
Addressing the issue of workplace bullying can be difficult, considering the fact that most of the time the victims are afraid to come forward and state their concerns. This can be due to fear of losing their job, appraisal, projects, etc. To help employees express their concerns and fears, organizations must devise strict compliance standards, corporate ethics and dedicate a specific team for the function. To ensure fair and unbiased operation, the team must report to a board of directors or the highest point of leadership within the organization.
Other than that, organizations must also promote better workplace engagement, negative behaviour awareness training and stress management training.
In case of any incidence of workplace bullying being reported, companies must respond appropriately to the situation by offering necessary support to the victim and punishing the offender.
Barring the financial impact and the development of a hostile work environment, workplace bullying is a major cause of concern for mental and physical health problems. Employers need to pay heed to workplace bullying through stricter rules, regulations and take a firm stance against those who commit to such actions.