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    November 2012
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    Bullying at work – the total cost – financial and societal Part 1 of 2

    Ian Whiting

    “Courage is fire and bullying is smoke.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli. For non-history buffs, Benjamin Disraeli was one of England’s most important Prime Ministers and noted around the world for his oratorical skills and his strong beliefs – and I subscribe completely to his perspective.

    This article is a very large challenge for me to write. Unfortunately, I know first-hand of what he speaks from school, to various work locations and elsewhere – you can check out a blog I did by clicking on this link (http://money.ca/you_and_your_money/ian-r-whiting/) and go back to early October 2012. Recognition of bullying against children is coming to the fore and many new programs are being developed to help the victims and to re-educate, and as necessary, ensure there are severe consequences to the bullies.

    What about bullying at work? Does it happen – absolutely and I had the misfortune to experience some of that too – but don’t feel for sorry for me – it simply made me more determined than ever to succeed – and I did!

    “Bullies need to make others feel insecure because they are insecure.” ~Unknown

    At work, it takes many forms – this is not an exhaustive list but simply representative:
    a) verbal abuse such as public pressure to swearing, name calling and public belittling;
    b) standing too close in a threatening manner or throwing objects while displaying aggressive behaviour and a speaking or shouting in a loud voice;
    c) emotional abuse often takes the form of undermining a co-worker’s results, efforts, resulting work and their professional or business credibility and can lead to keeping track of and reporting every minor mistake or error;
    d) character abuse often comes from “water-cooler” or “lunch-room” gossip, lying about another someone else or deliberately damaging their reputation; and
    e) professional abuse through actions such as continually finding fault with their work in public forums, talking over them at meetings or ignoring their input.

    Bullying is a lack of respect. It is often obvious – as you can see from the previous points, but it’s more subtle forms often cause more damage. It is responsible for increased absenteeism, a lack of workplace motivation, poor performance, employee dissatisfaction, increased turnover and a lack of trust together with the absence of team building with other workers. The financial effects of these consequences are enormous. Productivity always drops. As a result of the pressure on the abused employee, increased error rates are inevitable, work has to be re-done and even the non-abused staff are faced with negative consequences. All of this results in higher costs for the same end result – more sick-time, absenteeism, more stress-related health benefit claims. Added up across Canada, the cost is several billion dollars according to several studies. That cost is passed on to everyone – we all pay.

    “Only cowards are bullies.” ~Unknown. It causes substantial damage to self-esteem and the ability to contribute at work. It can also be responsible for depression, physical illness and severe trauma and is some cases PTSD. Bullying is never acceptable in the workplace – or anywhere for that matter.

    The MONEY® Network