While the U.S. is more likely to associate tactics of intimidation, mockery, and even physical assault with younger demographics, such as schoolchildren, the truth is that workplace bullying is far more common than many suspect. It is likely that adult bullies are not those who necessarily perpetrated the behavior at a younger age. This inverse condition means they are often more difficult to detect. The article below examines this phenomenon, providing both detail and scope to understand why it occurs and where it is most common.
See our ranking of the Top 10 Ph.D. in Industrial Organizational Psychology Online.
Violence, By Any Other Name
To use the word violence may conjure images of a physical nature. However, even non-physical aggression, such as may be employed in workplace bullying, cause harm—to the victims, the witnesses, and to the business itself. Psychological damage has lasting and extensive repercussions. Do employees and employers recognize bullying for what it is?
An article for Forbes examining the topic claims that 75 percent of the American workforce is impacted by bullying. Dr. Judy Blando’s work on the subject assumes center stage, with startling revelations, such as the fact that it is the most influential and most able individuals who are targeted by this aggressive tactic. Bullies may target individuals or groups, and use aggression, sabotage, and intimidation to disrupt their productivity.
Since the most energetic and successful personnel are typically the focal points of these repetitive and escalating campaigns of professional aggression, it can have a direct, negative impact upon the success of the entire company. The targets of bullying are often those with exceptional skills and long records of service to the company, who often serve as mentors to new or inexperienced employees.
The prowess and mentorship of these veteran employees threaten insecure individuals, who then use aggression, manipulation, sabotage, and outright mockery to destabilize that perceived threat. The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) estimated that more than 60 billion workers experienced bullying in 2016, whether as a target or a witness.
Both institutions and individual researchers stress that this behavior costs employers more than they might believe. Because of the repetitive and escalating nature of the bullying, stress mounts in the targets expressed as health issues that can decrease productivity, result in costly medical procedures, and erode the confidence of the formerly productive employee.
Because mentors and senior staff are often focal points in the workplace dynamic, destabilization of their efficient action and supportive presence impacts everyone who works with or for them. In turn, this can disrupt entire supply or service chains within the vicinity. Employers who ignore or passively condone bullies in their workforce are essentially agreeing to let those individuals run the company. It is what is known as a Critter State, and leads to increasing rates of employee turnover, reduced productivity, and associated loss of revenue.
While such numbers and statistics may seem disheartening, employers are coming to their own conclusions that concur with the need to eliminate aggressive employees. They now seek to foster what is known as a Smart State culture, which relies on support, reward, and mentorship to achieve increased productivity and output. They are also working to eliminate workplace bullying by coaching the bullies, offering a means by which they can turn manipulation and aggression into positive traits that benefit the company as a whole, rather than permitting them to be used to target individual employees.