Bullying: The Biggest Profit-Sucking Problem in the U.S. Today (Part 1)

(This guest post was written by Beth Myers, SBK Mediation, Inc.)

What part of the $300+ billion annual workplace bullying problem will you fix?

Clearly, resolving a massive workplace problem represents opportunity to increase profit, improve employee engagement, enhance hiring and cultural brands – get you noticed!

Consider the obvious:

~ The cost of replacing an employee ranges up to 5x their annual salary, depending on their role, to say nothing of the cost of reduced productivity, sabotage/theft/damage, higher health insurance costs, stress related illness and absenteeism….that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Why then, is the most easily reduced expense in organizations today also the most ignored and costly?

~ Bullying is status-blind harassment, often culturally ingrained, takes place behind closed doors.

~ Bullying is not illegal.

~ Legal requirements designed for an employer’s self-protection via documentation and subjective proof of targeted employee actions, intent, character may support bullying culture.

Workplace bullying takes many forms often beginning with minor acts of incivility; actions that could easily be explained as mistakes, blunders, unintentional digs and oversights. For example “forgetting” to include a team member’s name in the credits for an important presentation. Incivility escalates over time to what at first appears as a minor conflict or disagreement. Unresolved conflict leads to harassment which leads to bullying.

Bullying can be very hard to prove. Often taking place behind closed doors, sometimes during performance review, or at times when the bully has an opportunity to withhold important work, recognition, or promotion. Rarely does a stereotypical screaming mimi display public outbursts of bullying behavior. Sometimes, company culture rewards hyper-aggressive management styles.


~ Nearly 50% of Americans are affected by workplace bullying.

~ 72% of bullies are bosses with control over the targets’ livelihood.

~ Single parent workers are the most vulnerable.

~ 68% of bullies operate alone, at least in the beginning.

~ Bullied individuals rarely confront or act in an adversarial manner: only 38% informally notified their employers, 15% filed a complaint, 3% filed a lawsuit.

~ When employers are made aware of bullying, 62% either escalate the problem for the target, or do nothing.

~ Exit interviews are useless.

If your HR process is essentially helping you live in fear of legal process, rather than resolving the problem, perhaps it’s time for you to step up.

Learn how to stop incivility early on before it becomes unresolved conflict leading to bullying.

Learn how to make your organization a more engaging and profitable place to work.

Ask your HR professional or trusted workplace advisor what you can do to implement healthy resolution policies, procedures, training and, when it makes sense, to retain outside neutral mediation professionals who can help.

In a future post, Beth will outline 5 things employers can do to resolve workplace conflict.

Beth Myers works with organizations on their most difficult and costly people problems: Resolving Workplace Conflict. Beth is a professional mediator, mediating nearly 500 cases since 2010. For readers of Rick Dacri’s Uncomplicating Management Blog, Beth Myers is offering a complimentary, 1 hour consultation or small group training on the 8 Profit- Sucking Elements of Unresolved Workplace Conflict. Send an email to: Beth@SBKmediation.com Offer expires in April, 2014.

Other articles on bullying:

  1. Bullying: It Has To Stop
  2. The Cost of Workplace Incivility


Filed under Employee Relations, Management

3 responses to “Bullying: The Biggest Profit-Sucking Problem in the U.S. Today (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Bullying: 5 Things Businesses Must Do To Resolve (Part 2) | Uncomplicating Management

  2. Bullying is better addressed by a designated internal independent, neutral, informal and confidential resource – known as an organizational ombuds – than by external mediators. Time to resolution, systemic improvement, total cost and user satisfaction with both process and outcome has been repeatedly demonstrated to be superior with an organizational ombuds.

    Learn more with this podcast interview with ombuds expert and Columbia University Faculty John W. Zinsser.

  3. Pingback: NFL: “Abusive and Unprofessional Behavior” | Uncomplicating Management

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