With the development of more complex organizational forms, more people come together to work in a competitive workplace environment. They use different strategies to achieve their career goals. Some build effective interpersonal relationships and rely on trust and charisma to move up the career ladder. Others apply to emotional violence and bully their opponents to feel secure and confident in the workplace. Despite the implementation of numerous organizational initiatives, bullying remains an indispensable component of organizations’ workplace routines. The financial, organizational, and human costs of bullying can be lasting and far-reaching. Workplace bullying is a pervasive phenomenon that has particularly negative impacts on employees and organizations, and only a well-developed organizational policy and regular training can reduce the scope of bullying in the workplace.
Organizations cannot tackle the issue of workplace bullying if they do not understand its meaning. Researchers and HR practitioners recognize that the concept of workplace bullying is quite complex (Branch, Ramsay, & Barker 281). Because bullying can take many forms organizations may find it difficult to outline its scope and boundaries. Still, for the purpose of the present task, bullying will be defined as “harassing, offending, or socially excluding someone or negatively affecting someone’s work task” (Paludi 176). Bullying differs from occasional conflicts in the workplace, because it is pervasive, systematic, and repetitive. It always takes place over a period of time, and it always involves two or more people – a perpetrator, a victim and, possibly, observers.
The scope and severity of workplace bullying in modern organizations used to be the subjects of ongoing research in literature. According to Paludi, between 35 and 50 percent of employees in the United States have been targets of workplace bullying at least once in their career (176). Every third worker in the U.S. reports facing at least two incidences of workplace bullying per week (Paludi 176). Branch et al. create a different picture: they state that between 10 and 15 percent of employees in Europe and the U.S. are exposed to bullying in the workplace (281). In either case, contemporary research suggests that workplace bullying is pervasive and relevant in contemporary organizations. This fact alone necessitates a more structured analysis of the issue and justifies the implementation of evidence-based strategies to reduce the scope of emotional violence and aggression among employees.
The effects of workplace bullying have been extensively explored. They can be roughly categorized around organizations and employees. Workplace bullying has particularly negative impacts on workers. It reduces employee motivation, performance, and job satisfaction (Paludi 176). Bullying decreases workers’ physical and psychological health (Paludi 176). Employees cannot successfully fulfill their primary obligations, when they are in a state of continued stress and experience harassment at work. These negative effects become even more profound, given that the victims of bullying are more introverted and anxious than potential perpetrators; they display lower levels of self-esteem and self-competence (Branch et al. 287). In fact, these personality features predispose employees to the risks of aggression and bullying on the side of their more powerful colleagues (Branch et al. 287). With these personality characteristics, even a single incident of bullying can become serious and irreversibly traumatic experience for an employee who is too weak or incapable of resisting interpersonal aggression.
Workplace bullying also leads to undesirable organizational outcomes. As mentioned previously, bullying is a source of stress for workers, whose performance decreases following interpersonal aggression and emotional violence (Paludi 177). Consequently, organizations that do not take an action against workplace bullying also face the risks of low employee performance, low motivation, increased workplace absenteeism, and more pronounced intentions to leave the job. Organizations that fail to reduce the scope of workplace bullying face lower employee commitment to workplace obligations and increased turnover (Paludi 182). It may cost thousands to hire and train a new worker, but many organizations disregard the financial ramifications of violence in the workplace.
The more employees are affected by bullying, the more pervasive and visible these effects become. Bullying impairs firm performance and organizational growth, and these effects have a tendency to accumulate over time (Paludi 182). Additionally, many firms disregard the risks of costly litigation from the employees who have been exposed to bullying and aggression in the workplace (Paludi 182). The current state of law protects workers from discrimination and interpersonal workplace violence, and firms may have to pay millions to settle harassment lawsuits with their employees (Paludi 182). Employees are strongly positioned to defend their rights in courts. However, even before they file a single lawsuit, organizations can take an action and minimize the incidence of workplace bullying. The latest research indicates that organizational policies and training could create optimal conditions for overcoming the issue of bullying in the workplace.
Antibullying policies have already become a popular method for organizations to prevent and eliminate the risks of bullying. The purpose of such policies is two-fold. On the one hand, they aim to raise employee awareness of bullying as an organizational phenomenon (Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf, & Cooper 364). On the other hand, they are designed to outline the actions and decisions employees should make to prevent or reduce the risks of bullying. An effective policy will include a zero-tolerance statement and delineate the features and signs of bullying that require immediate action from managers and workers (Einarsen et al. 365). It will also incorporate references to the existing laws, legal precedents, and litigation to clarify the legal consequences of bullying to managers and workers (Einarsen et al. 365). For many organizations, antibullying policies become the starting point in preventing and eliminating the risks of interpersonal violence. They define the organizational atmosphere, which does not tolerate workplace bullying. They create a common understanding among workers and managers that bullying is undesirable and can result in legal action. However, such policies are just a starting point in organizations’ striving to overcome aggression.
Training and counseling strategies have been extensively used by organizations to deal with the problem of workplace bullying. Extensive training has been described as one of the several high performance work practices, which can effectively reduce the prevalence and severity of bullying in the workplace (Salin 3). Such training can take many different forms, and its purpose is similar to that of antibullying policies – to raise bullying awareness among workers and propose actions and strategies to minimize their exposure to interpersonal violence. However, training differs from policies in that it is activity-based. It is a practical approach to workplace bullying, and it will certainly make employees better prepared to face and deal with aggression in organizations. The costs of training will always be incomparably low to the costs of interpersonal violence in the workplace, which is why contemporary organizations should foster the implementation of such initiatives.
In conclusion, workplace bullying remains a pervasive organizational phenomenon. Antibullying policies and employee training represent two promising strategies for reducing the scope of bullying in the workplace. Organizations should outline the steps workers should follow to minimize their exposure to interpersonal aggression and violence. Training will add a practice dimension to policies, providing employees with the skills and knowledge they need to reduce the scope of bullying in the workplace. Organizations will benefit most from using a combination of these approaches in their everyday practices.
- Branch, Sara, Sheryl Ramsay, & Michelle Barker. “Workplace Bullying, Mobbing and General Harassment: A Review.” International Journal of Management Reviews, 15, 2013, pp. 280-299.
- Einarsen, Stale, Helge Hoel, Dieter Zapf, & Cary Cooper. Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace: Developments in Theory, Research, and Practice. CRC Press. 2010.
- Paludi, Michele A. Bullies in the Workplace: Seeing and Stopping Adults Who Abuse Their Co-Workers and Employees. ABC-CLIO, 2008.
- Salin, D. “The Prevention of Workplace Bullying as a Question of Human Resource Management: Measures Adopted and Underlying Organizational Factors.” Scandinavian Journal of Management, 2008, doi: 10.1016/j.scaman.2008.04.004.