Emotional, physical cost of workplace bullying

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SYSTEMATIC DESTRUCTION: It jeopardises health, career and the job once loved by the victim

   Andreas DornBRODIE Panlock was a waitress working at a cafĂ© in Australia. Her mother described her as a "beautiful girl who was full of compassion". Brodie never told her mother that she was viciously bullied by her co-workers.

She was just 19 years old when their abuse became too much to tolerate and she jumped to her death from a building in 2006.

Brodie's death was an extreme case of bullying at the workplace.

In a personal email to me after my recent article on procrastination, an anonymous reader said that despite suffering from illness, his co-workers force him to finish his work. In addition, he is actually doing their work to the detriment of his own.

This delays his own work, which he then labels as procrastination. Be assured, it is not procrastination. It is a case of workplace bullying.

The Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine Middleton, was photographed sunbathing topless at a secluded location in France. The paparazzi sneaked up, photographed her and started to publish the pictures to the fury and dismay of the royal family. They sued the tabloid to preserve the duchess' privacy, calling it a gross invasion of privacy.

The press plays innocent and pretends to serve public interest with newsworthy material. It is nothing else than another form of bullying, although not at the workplace.

Bullying is a widespread phenomenon.

THIRTY-SEVEN per cent of workers in the United States have reported being bullied on the job, and an additional 49 per cent say they have witnessed a bully in action.

ACTIVE bullies exist in 66.6 per cent of workplaces and, sadly, of these bullies, 72 per cent are bosses.

PRODUCTIVITY suffers in workplaces where employers tolerate or accept bullying. Statistics state that the antics of one serial bully in the workplace has the potential to reduce the performance of their victims by half, and that of other employees by up to 33 per cent.

THE financial cost of workplace bullying to business in Australia is estimated to be between US$6 billion (RM18.6 billion) and US$13 billion a year. This includes indirect costs, such as absenteeism, labour turnover, loss of productivity and possible legal costs.

RECENT research in the United Kingdom suggests 18.9 million working days are lost each year as a direct result of bullying at work, costing the economy of STG6 billion (RM29.8 billion), representing a financial "cost" to individual companies of eight to 10 per cent of their annual profits.

THE National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in America estimates that there is a loss of employment amounting to US$9 billion and a drop in productivity of US$3 billion due to workplace bullying.

HALF of employers take no action when a workplace bullying claim is made, and a further 12.5 per cent actually promote the workplace bully.

According to the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute in America, bullying is "a systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction that jeopardises health, career, the job once loved by the victim. Bullying is a non-physical, non-homicidal form of violence and because it is violent and abusive, emotional harm frequently results".

It surely hurts the victim's self-esteem and self-respect. Victims start to believe that they are unable to stand up for their own rights when others step over their own personal boundaries.

The hard reality is that many victims don't act like the royal family. Instead of making themselves heard, they remain quiet, hopelessly hoping for a miracle that will make the abuse go away.

It won't go away. In fact, the incidences might increase as the bullies realise that there are no repercussions following their actions.

Management often doesn't do enough to prevent bullying. To stop bullying, organisations must realise the emotional and physical cost caused by bullies. Most organisations state that they respect their employees. As such, they need to own their own values and reprimand bullies. They need to articulate policies on appropriate behaviour and establish clear procedures and outcomes for cases that involve bullying.

Victims need to identify what is important to them and start establishing their own boundaries. They need to learn to say no, when someone does or says something that goes beyond a certain level. It is hard but necessary. They also need to speak to other people about their feelings and get advice about the next course of action.

If their boss doesn't support the victims, they need to escalate the issue to the next higher level. If nothing else helps, bullied individuals should simply consider leaving the company as their status as a human is above anything.


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