Why Bullying is bad for business!

Everyone is affected by bullying in their workplace

ACAS says workplace bullying costs the UK economy over 18 billion pounds per year, but what does that actually look like within the confines of an individual organisation? If you look at the people being bullied first, you’ll find they are in no condition to contribute their best work. Most of the people I talk to, who are being bullied at work, can hardly concentrate on their job at all. So in some jobs where complete focus is crucial, you already have a dangerous situation.

The negativity emanating from the bully’s behaviour is both corrosive and contagious: colleagues will be terrified of becoming the next target; some, finding the situation unbearably embarrassing, blame that target for attracting the abusive behaviours (victim blaming), a few might try to take advantage of this situation by, for example, blaming the target for something they have done or should have done, some will suck up to the bully, even wanting emulate them. Also, if you recruit bullies, they will recruit bullies – like recruiting like. If the organisation doesn’t take effective action, it will be assumed that senior management condones the behaviour. This is how abusive behaviour becomes normalized – that’s how toxicity spreads.

If you look at that department’s books, you’ll find sick leave goes up; legal costs rise as staff who can prove the bullying will need to be paid off, and recruitment costs will go up as staff have to be replaced. Replacements will need to be trained added to which among the first people to leave will be the best talent, potentially taking the department’s reputation with them.

We must also consider the behaviours bullying is used to conceal. Bullying can be used to cover incompetent, negligent practices, breaches of regulation, or even the law! For example, if a manager wants to embezzle the company they work for, they’ll want to intimidate their reports so that no one will challenge or report them, and they want to terrorize or take over the finance department.

Let’s look at an example – what happens when a bank’s management falls under the spell of a charismatic, ruthless bully. Fred Goodwin was proud of his nickname Fred the Shred. He was a ruthless and vicious bully. Due diligence should have prevented his appointment, but charisma got this ruthless man his post as CEO of The Royal Bank of Scotland. Goodwin even managed to persuade a Labour government that there could be Boom with no Bust – he was even knighted and allowed to do as he pleased. For a while, Fred succeeded; his ruthless practices made RBS the biggest bank in the world (briefly). Without boundaries, Goodwin overreached RBS’ capacity and cost the UK economy the 20 billion the government had to pay to bail RBS out. Exceptions made for bullies always end badly. Those with no regard for subordinates are unlikely to care about the ramifications of what they do for the company they work for or even their country. The more perfect a candidate appears, the more religiously their qualifications and references should be checked.


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