What workplace bullying really costs

What does bullying cost UK organisations? Not the 18 million (ACAS) that it costs the UK, but each individual organisation?

My answer is fourfold, the effects on the target, colleagues, the bully, and the organisation.

The most accurate description that I’ve read about what bullying does to a target  I found in “Workplace Bullying Symptoms and Solutions” Edited by Noreen Tehrani

2012 In “Healing the wounded soul” a chapter by Marie-France Hirigoyen


Whilst important, the fear of unemployment may not be the primary reason for a target’s submissive behaviour. Bullying managers … constantly seek power, consciously or unconsciously

using perverse tactics to cause the victims to feel psychologically bound, controlled, and unable to respond. The target is disrespected, abused, put under pressure, scolded, watched, or timed, causing them to feel a need to maintain a constant state of vigilance. Typically, employees will not be given the appropriate information or support to enable them to change this situation, leaving them cornered and deprived of the ability to think rationally about their situation and causing them to accept the unacceptable, incapable of confronting the unreasonable behaviour. Targets frequently describe the difficulties they experience in trying to concentrate when in close proximity to their tormentor. These problems in thinking and the inability to focus lead to impairment in their work …

Targets may be told that they are responsible for what happens to them, it is they that have a problem. Targets can become paralysed by contradictory instructions; they are criticised for being ineffective whilst not having the means to perform their work or facing blocks put in the way of them being able to achieve their goals. Targets may be given impossible tasks, conflicting orders, and unreasonable deadlines. When confronted by this situation, they can find themselves paralysed, unable to react, with family, friends, and therapists coming to believe that they are complicit in their suffering. … Bullied targets feel ashamed of being bullied and of their inability to respond appropriately. The loss of self-esteem and self-confidence causes them to doubt their own feeling and to begin to believe they may be responsible for the situation. The hostility makes it impossible for them to distinguish what is normal and what is not, what comes from their frailty, and what has been caused by the tormentor’s destructive behaviour. Targets dream of being rehabilitated, hoping for an acknowledgment or recognition of the bullying behaviour. Rather than any wish for revenge, they want the apology that will never come. …

If the bullying continues for several months or years, the body’s resistance begins to wear out, giving way to a permanent state of anxiety which is constantly reactivated by the repeated bullying attacks. The constant state of intense stress can cause a generalised anxiety disorder characterised by permanent apprehension and anticipation, anxious ruminations, permanent tension, and hypervigilance. Often this will be accompanied by severe depressive states, which the target may attempt to hide from family, friends, and their doctor. …Targets are depressed not because of any prior vulnerability or fragility but rather because the bullying has affected their self-esteem, causing them to feel worthless and hopeless. These depressive states need to be recognised early as there is a high risk of suicide in targets of bullying. … in France, there has been a very high rate of work-related suicides: 58 suicides Telecom between 2007 and 2009 (Guardian) 2009). However, the main investigations have been to look at the personal circumstances of the workers rather any meaningful examination of the working environment as an explanation of these tragic events.” Those workers who manage to move out of their perpetrator’s reach still risk PTSD.

I hope that anyone reading this would be horrified, horrified enough to intervene?

Ultimately I like to create anti-bullying and harassment champions – I’ll post more in-depth information on the effects on colleagues tomorrow. #workplacebullying #bullying #bullyingawareness #bullyingprevention

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