9th Apr 2019
We may often think of bullying as something that happens during our school years but it can be just as common in the workplace. The TUC estimates around a third of UK employees have been bullied 2. Allowing this behaviour to go unchecked causes significant distress to those involved and has a huge financial cost to industry.
What Is Bullying In The Workplace?
Workplace bullying can include, but is not limited to, spreading rumours, singling out an individual regularly or holding back someone’s career development. The bullying may take place in person, over the phone or through email. Although bullying is not prevented by law, harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 1.
Counting The Cost
First and foremost we must consider the mental and emotional cost to those involved in bullying. Those who are bullied do not only suffer in the workplace. They will take that stress and pressure into their personal lives effecting relationships with family and friends. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady:
“Bullying causes stress and anxiety and can have long-term effects on victims’ physical and mental health.” 2
It is the responsibility of employers to ensure that their employees quality of life is not being eroded by bullying at work.
A financial cost can be attributed to bullying in the workplace. An employee who is unhappy, under stress and otherwise distracted will be, understandably, underperforming. Stress is likely to reduce their quality of sleep which will lead to lack of focus and reduced energy. Anxiety while at work will lead to being easily distracted and increase the likelihood of mistakes. Eventually if the bullying is allowed to continue the employee will likely be taking longer and longer time on sick leave, leading to long term sickness and eventually over a third will leave their job 2.
The impact of the bullying can also be felt by the rest of the organisation. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady:
“If bullies are allowed to dominate a workplace, wider office morale and productivity suffers too.” 2
The potential cost to UK industry by unchecked bullying is staggering, Acas Chair, Sir Brendan Barber:
” the annual economic impact of bullying-related absences, staff turnover and lost productivity is estimated to be almost £18 billion.” 3
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
To avoid the human and financial cost, it is best to educate employers to create a space where bullying is prevented before it has chance to take hold. Unfortunately many employers are at a loss with how to deal with bullying let alone prevent it.
With nearly three quarters of bullying being carried out by a manager 2 it is vital that systems are put in place at all levels of an organisation to prevent a culture of bullying taking place.
As always, anyone that witnesses workplace bullying is encouraged to Stand Up and Speak Out. Your intervention may very well be preventing long term mental and emotional harm.
BulliesOut provide comprehensive training on both preventing and dealing with bullying by Creating a Safe & Healthy Workplace
Written By Phil Nicholls