The Bully Culture
The Cost of Bullying in the Workplace
Board of Advisors:
Professor of Law
and founding Director of the
New Workplace Institute at
Suffolk University Law School
SEIU/NAGE Local 282
Marketing Director for the
Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Bill
The Cost of Bullying in the Workplace
Current polls show that about half of us have been bullied or witnessed bullying in the workplace at some point in our lives. I know I have.
What’s a bully? By definition a bully aggressively intimidates and terrorizes a target by browbeating, harassing and frightening him (or more often reported in the workplace, her) for no apparent reason. A person who “creates a toxic work environment”. Today, many in the HR community define bullying victims as a powerless and abused class of worker who have no legal recourse in the State/Federal legal system. Their choice is to live with it or move on and accept the consequences. Personally, I had to give up a long term and very lucrative freelance account to avoid working with a client who was a bully. My doctor said that the stress was going to kill me.
The physical and psychological tolls from bullying are well documented as are the economic costs which negatively impact both employees and employers: Lost wages, disrupted career advancement, unemployment, PTSD and medical bills; low productivity, increased sick time, high employee turnover, re-staffing and retraining costs.
Surprisingly, defining the line between bullying and tough management style isn’t that hard. Many western nations have successfully passed and are enforcing laws. England, Ireland, Scandinavia, most of the EU countries, Canada and Australia have laws which “forbid bullying-like conduct” in the workplace. Twenty-nine U.S. States have introduced Healthy Workplace Bills which are modeled on sexual harassment/anti-discrimination laws. Public opinion polls show overwhelming support. But so far no laws have been passed in the U.S.
Opponents argue that bullying is too subjective to be defined and anti-bullying laws will be “bad for business". The same arguments have been made since the Civil Rights act of 1964. History has shown the opposite is always true. As dictated by law, American businesses have progressed on a path that’s dramatically improved employee conditions and work experiences, helped create a more inclusive work environment and most recently supported a business culture that’s less tolerant of harassment.
The Bully Culture will be a documentary that takes a 360 degree view of bullying in the workplace. Beginning with a look at historical workplace mores, we will explore how employer employee relationships evolved into the complex structure we have today. We’ll look at how the bullying culture developed and how this controversial business strategy co-exists within today’s more progressive businesses environment.
Interviews with current business leaders, academics, experts, consultants, legislators and practitioners, pro and con, will provide an overall macro view and the storys that will come from interviews with targets and bullies will provide the personal, micro view. We will also follow the progress of Healthy Workplace Bills and the grass roots organizations working to get these laws passed. These elements will be edited together to create a cohesive story that will help us better understand this complicated issue.
Go to www.thebullyculture.com for more information about the documentary.
For more information about bullying in the workplace visit:
The New Workplace Institute Blog, hosted by David Yamada
I was so pleased Prof. David Yamada asked me to take part in the Workplace Bullying Workshop at Suffolk on October 23rd & 24th. Thanks to my daughter Katie on camera, we were able to capture the event on video. And thanks to the participants who are on the inside of this issue for sharing their stories and wisdom. I learned more than I could have expected about bullying in the workplace at this terrific event. To read more about this event go to: https://newworkplace.wordpress.com/2015/10/24/freedom-from-workplace-bullies-week-2015-working-with-change-agents/