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Workplace bullying a costly epidemic in the enterprise

Sharon Florentine | Nov. 10, 2014
Workplace bullying opens your organization up to poor productivity, lower retention rates and possible legal action. And it's not an isolated issue - the workplace statistics are shocking. Is your culture cultivating a bully mentality?

Why Aren't Businesses Putting a Stop to It?
So, why aren't businesses doing more to stop bullying? One of the most obvious answers is that they're unaware that it's happening, says Moriarity. Victims may be unwilling to report bullying if it's being done by their supervisor or by a colleague for several reasons, not the least of which is fear of being viewed as a troublemaker and losing their job.

"People don't have the courage or the power to be able to stand up to bullies in the workplace, because they're afraid of losing their jobs. Especially in a recovering economy, it can be terrifying to think of losing their livelihood if they're not believed," says Moriarity.

This fear is not unfounded, according to WBI data. Fifty-six percent of reported bullies are the victim's boss; 33 percent report that a coworker is the bully. "Most of the time, the bully is in a position of power over the victim. The message is, 'I can treat you however I want, and you have to put up with it or you'll be out on the street - and don't even think about asking for an employment reference,'" says Namie.

What's worse, according to Moriarity, is the fear of retaliation by the bullies themselves, if they discover they've been reported, but no corporate action is taken. "If bullying is reported and an organization doesn't respond, what happens? The abuse escalates. It gets worse. Often, whistleblowers face retaliation, not just by their bullies either; sometimes being fired from their job because they're seen as a troublemaker," says Moriarity.

In her role at The Network, Moriarity consults with businesses about the need to create a culture that does not tolerate bullying and, more importantly, to consistently, quickly and forcefully deal with bullies while protecting victims brave enough to speak out.

"In the ethics and compliance industry, we talk a lot about creating this kind of culture, but you can't just talk about it, you can't just pay lip service to the idea of having a respectful, safe and open workplace. If you don't have rules in place to enforce that, it doesn't do any good," says Moriarity.

The Catch-22: Bullies Are Often High Performers
What makes the situation even more complex is that some organizations are actually benefiting from bullying behavior, Namie says. There's a fine line between being an aggressive, hard-driven, high-performing go-getter that's bringing in profits and closing deals and being a bully. Particularly if a worker has used aggressive bullying tactics in the past and been rewarded for the behavior.

Creating a Culture of Bullying
"Many of these bullies are praised for similar behavior, under different circumstances. They're pushy, they're ruthless, cunning and they'll do whatever it takes to get ahead, to win - and that helps them succeed and the business succeed," says Namie.


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