Workplace Bullies Hurt the Bottom Line

Most of us have been in a situation where we’ve been forced to deal with a bully at work: a co-worker or supervisor who engages in hostile verbal or nonverbal communication, interfering actions, or withholding of resources–time, information, training, support, equipment–that guarantee failure. You may have found that there’s not too much that can be done about it, especially where the employer condones the bullying behavior as part of a “get-tough” management style. You might be interested to learn, however, that current research shows that bullying results in losses of hundreds of millions of dollars a year in terms of absenteeism, employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, product quality and productivity. (See Cincinnati Enquirer article). That’s exactly the kind of message employers should listen to, when other attempts to rein bullies have proven unsuccessful. Some employers may be listening, according to one expert. “I think as the economy has turned down, companies want to improve employee satisfaction in ways that don’t have to do with money,” says Gregg Campa, director of client relations with the Business Research Lab in Houston. Yet another expert is skeptical, however. Kurt Landgraf, president of Educational Testing Service in Princeton, N.J., and former chief executive of DuPont Pharmaceuticals, says “I think most organizations all talk about how much they care. But the real fact of the matter is, the corporate culture is so accepting of these kinds of aggressive actions, it’s not going to go away.” Bullying may be more prevalent in workplaces that have competitive reward structures – where managers compete for promotions, salaries, benefits, recognition and office space – which tends to promote more political behavior and abuse. Another previous study on workplace bullying and gender has found that half of all bullies are women, and that women bullies target women 84% of the time, while men bullies target women 69% of the time, making women the majority of targets in the workplace. A good resource for those who have been victimized by workplace bullying is the Workplace Bullying & Trauma Institute. The Institute is led by Drs. Gary and Ruth Namie, founders of the Campaign Against Workplace Bullying and authors of “The Bully At Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity On the Job” The Institute’s website,, has a number of articles, surveys, and good advice for those encountering a bully at work, and discusses current efforts to pass an anti-bullying statute in California. This proposed law, if passed, would be the first of its kind in the U.S. or Canada–a trend we would like to see continue.

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.