Bullying in the workplace

The problem of workplace bullying is more widespread than you might think. Research both here and in the US suggests that it’s pretty common, and some occupations, such as medical ones, are especially bad. A 2003 study of 461 nurses found that in the month before it was conducted, 91% had experienced verbal abuse, defined as mistreatment, that left them feeling attacked, devalued or humiliated. Physicians were the most frequent abusers.

Researchers who write about psychological abuse in the workplace define it as “the sustained display of hostile verbal and nonverbal behaviour, excluding physical contact.” The point is this: do people feel oppressed, humiliated, de-energised or belittled after talking to an alleged bully? In particular, do they feel worse about themselves?

Here are some of the most common types of bullying behaviour:

  • Personal insults
  • Invading colleagues’ personal territory
  • Uninvited physical contact
  • Threats and intimidation, verbal and nonverbal
  • Sarcastic jokes and teasing used as insults
  • Withering emails
  • Put-downs intended to humiliate victims
  • Public shaming or degrading status
  • Rude interruptions
  • Two-faced attacks
  • Dirty looks
  • Treating people as if they were invisible

There is a business case against tolerating nasty and demeaning people in your organisation. Companies that put up with bullies not only can have more difficulty recruiting and retaining the best and brightest talent, but are also prone to higher client churn, damaged reputations and diminished investor confidence.

Innovation and creativity may suffer and cooperation could be impaired, both within and outside the organisation.

Finally, if word leaks out that your organisation is led by mean-spirited bullies, the damage to its reputation can drive away potential employees and shake investor confidence.

There is good news and bad news about workplace bullies. The bad news is that abuse is widespread and the human and financial toll is high. The good news is that leaders can take steps to build workplaces where demeaning behaviour isn’t tolerated and nasty people are shown the door.

Give us a call on 01865 881056 or email us at info@leaderslab.co.uk if you’d like to discuss any of these issues in more detail.