It’s Time to Stop Workplace Bullying

Bullying

BullyingI read quite a few blogs on management and hiring practices (kudos to my favorite, Ask A Manager), and recently I fell down the rabbit hole of clicking links to related articles at the bottom of a post. That’s how I came to learn about the Workplace Bullying Institute (or WBI), “the first and only U.S. organization dedicated to the eradication of workplace bullying.” The site is filled with fascinating research, tips for targets of bullying, and training materials for managers. The resources WBI provides are very useful, yet they make me incredibly sad.

Why? Because an organization like this is needed in the first place.

According to a 2010 WBI survey, 35% of workers in the U.S. reported being bullied at work. An additional 15% of workers witnessed the bullying of others. That means half of workers in America are affected by bullying. Meanwhile, a National Center for Education Statistics study (PDF) that came out in 2009 showed that bullying affected 28% of students ages 12 through 18 (this doesn’t include cyber bullying, but rather in-school bullying like being called names, being made the subject of rumors, or being physically harmed).

So 28% of pre-teens and teens are the victims of bullying, while 35% of workers are. Who are the adults here?

If you’re not compelled to do something about this in your own office, think of it this way. Your company is creating a culture of incivility and fear. How much is this costing you? Employees calling in sick more frequently, increased turnover (hiring a new employee equals one and a half times the salary of keeping an existing one), lower productivity because teams don’t function well, and HR spending time counseling victims of bullying and investigating their claims. Imagine how much better our workplaces would be if bullying was not tolerated? If bullies were given specific and stern feedback about their behavior one time and then fired if they didn’t improve? If employees knew they could report bullying without consequences or retaliation, and that once they did, a thorough investigation would take place? According to WBI research, bullying is four times more prevalent than illegal harassment, yet it’s a silent epidemic in corporate America.

If you’d like to learn more about the financial and emotional effects of workplace bullying, and ways you can help bring about change, I highly recommend Robert Sutton’s intriguingly-named book, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t. After you read it, anonymously leave it on the desk of your office bully!

Let’s bring kindness back into the workplace. It’s good for your business, and even better for your employees.