Workplace bullying comes at a high price to businesses.
From the schoolyard to the home to the workplace, more adults are experiencing mistreatment and hostility at work, turning into a costly problem for business owners.
Pressure, excessively high workloads, social exclusion and regulatory failure are red flags.
But the effects of workplace bullying impact the wider workplace as well, through lost productivity, increased absenteeism and expenses involved.
Bullies and Budgets
Safe Work Australia defines workplace bullying as repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker creating a risk to health and safety.
In Australia, workplace bullying costs businesses up to $36 billion each year.
Legal penalties alone can carry a large price. But even if claims don’t escalate to court, businesses still take a hit to their bottom line as turnover rates rise and productivity severely suffers.
Some examples of the types of bullying include:
- Unjustified or unreasonable criticism or complaints
- Work is frequently monitored, where there’s self-doubt or difficulty with regular tasks
- Verbal bullying, including humiliation, jokes, gossip or offensive comments
- Coworkers may become quiet, leave the room or ignore the employee
- Wrongful blame relating to work performance, work sabotage, interference or taking credit for ideas
- Intentionally excluding someone or making them feel socially/physically isolated; purposefully excluded from decisions, conversations or work-related events
- Institutional bullying, when a workplace accepts, allows or encourages bullying to take place. This can include forced overtime, singling out those who can’t keep up or unrealistic production goals
Workplace Bullying Affects Job Performance
Productivity and absenteeism are direct consequences of workplace bullying.
Yet, presenteesism (attending work when not fit to do so) has become the new normal in psychologically unsafe workplaces.
According to Safe Work Australia, staff who suffer psychological distress from bullying took four times as many sick days per month, with a 154% higher performance loss at work. Bullied employees can’t work at the optimum level of performance. Naturally, they’ll have performance issues which impact your bottom line, such as:
- Lower productivity
- Loss of self-esteem and confidence
- Loss of motivation
- An incapacity to work or concentrate
- An increase in sick days
- Difficulty making decisions
- Feelings of confusion, helplessness and disorientation, which impact quality of work and ability to do job properly
Bullying has health consequences that stay with workplaces and victims well into the future.
General health can take a decline. High blood pressure, stress, anxiety, insomnia and severe headaches can all be a result. Other physical symptoms, such as digestive issues, stomach ulcers and pain are also common, contributing to more time off work.
Half of Australian employees will experience workplace bullying during their careers.
But businesses suffer just as much, facing both direct and indirect consequences. This commercial impact negatively affects business by:
- High staff turnover, with recruitment and training costs; bullied employees are more likely to quit their jobs
- Loss of valuable staff
- Damage to the reputation of the business
- Increased risk of legal action, workers compensation claims or investigations
- Poor team dynamics
- Reduced trust, effort and loyalty from employees
- Toxic business culture
- Increased absenteeism
What is a Healthy Workplace?
According to Beyond Blue, there are four key elements of mentally safe and healthy workplaces:
- Reasonable stress levels: A healthy amount of stress is good. But unrealistic deadlines, job uncertainty, poor communication and poor boundaries between work and time off aren’t
- Positive workplace culture: Staff should feel good about coming to work; a place where everyone can feel encouraged and supported
- Zero tolerance for discrimination: People with mental health issues or disabilities can have more of a problem with bullying
- Staff support: Support provided to all staff, including those with mental health issues and/or disabilities
To tackle the problem effectively, workplace policies need to incorporate all types of bullying behaviours. Complaint handling procedures must be implemented, with a zero-tolerance policy towards bullying.
Employers have a legal liability to prevent workplace bullying. Yet workplace bullies still leave a trail of destruction. How will you make a difference?
About the Author
Founder of Toward Music, Jayde Ferguson Walker is a music enthusiast and scripturient with a consuming passion to write. With 15+ years’ experience in the local music industry as a music journalist, Jayde also writes in the business, travel and home improvement industries. You can catch her on LinkedIn.