The damaging effects of Bullying

The case of Amanda Todd has really brought the topic of bullying front and centre.  We know that bullying occurs on the playground; in the schools; and in workplaces; and as a result of Amanda Todd’s very sad story we are seeing very clearly, that it also occurs on social media.

What can parents, school officials, workplace managers and employees do?

There are definitely more questions than answers and no one wants to see bullying taken to the extreme that it was in this case.  I’ve been listening, with a great deal of interest, to what some of the solutions being suggested are and one that comes up time and time again, is that we need to educate.

To that end, here are some interesting facts I learned about bullying myself:

There are several reasons that bullies, bully. For instance, the bully may just enjoy seeing a person he or she perceives to be weaker, suffer.  They feel there is a certain social status that comes with being a bully.  Bullies are likely to feel little empathy for their victims and may even feel justified in inflicting hurt or pain because they feel in some way that their victims deserve it.

A common myth about bullies is that they bully others to cover up their own sense of inadequacy or poor self-esteem. It appears that bullies actually possess levels of self-esteem that are about as positive as those of their non-bully peers.  www.interventioncentral.org 

Something else of interest in cases of bullying is the behaviours of the bystanders.

The term ‘bystander’ suggests that there are those who stand on the sidelines and witness incidents of bullying are neutral observers. In most instances, though, bystanders are much more likely to provide encouragement and support to the bully than they are to actively intercede to help the victim (Snell, et al., 2002).

One explanation for why bystanders may cross the line to help bullies is that, as part of a group, bystanders may feel less accountable for their individual actions (Olweus, 1993). Another possibility is that bystanders feel justified in bullying the victim because they have come to believe that he or she ‘deserves’ such treatment.

Bullying costs organizations in many ways.  This is part of the education that employers should pay special attention to.

Here is an example of how to calculate some of the costs involved when you have a bully in your organization.

  • • Bully’s direct manager counseling bully = hours times hourly rate of both the manager and the bully
  • • Victim’s direct manager counseling victim = hours times hourly rate of both the manager and the victim
  • • Witnesses counseling victim = could be in excess of 100 hours per employee x rate of pay for each (this costs production and morale as well)
  • • HR talking with managers, bully and target = hours x number of employees involved x hourly rate of each
  • • HR talking with Executives about the problem= hours x number of employees involved x hourly rate or each
  • • Potential legal costs (discussions with legal advice – or legal representation)
    • Potential workplace investigation (internal or external)
    • • HR recruiting and training replacement of victim employee (assuming employee leaves)
      • Advertising, interview time for HR and managers (direct ad costs and time loss for those involved in interviewing)
      • Team and department members training new employee
      • Additional costs to loss of production

To sum it all up, bullies have negative impacts in the school yard and their behaviours often carry on in the workplace.

Not dealing with these behaviours is not the answer.

Supervisors, managers, and employees need to understand how to cope with the bullies in the workplace.  Policies are certainly a good place to start but actions speak much louder than words.

If we want to have healthy workplaces, which I would hope most organizations do, then bullying cannot be tolerated.

The first step is in learning as much as you can about why bullying happens; why others don’t speak up; how we can help not only the victim(s), but also the bully.  Helping the bully may mean eventually having him/her leave the organization but the better we equip ourselves with knowledge and understanding, the better chance of success we’ll have when it comes to combatting this problem.

As far as I know, to-date, there have not been any successful WorkSafe BC claims since Bill 14 has passed legislation, but I fully expect that day will come.

Let’s hope that Amanda Todd’s story has given everyone a better understanding of just how painful bullying can be and has shed some light on how serious a problem this can be.

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