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Workplace Bullying

The Organizational Challenge of Workplace Bullying

Mar 26, 2014

Workplace Bullying Challenges

Bullying can happen to anyone in any workplace regardless of rank or income-level but is more prevalent in particular professions such as education and healthcare.

The number of Americans affected by this issue is staggering.

“An online survey of 7,740 employees conducted by the WBI estimated that 37% of American workers, 54 million people have been bullied” (Bible, 2012).

If you include coworker bystanders then nearly half of all US employees are affected by a workplace bully. Additionally, 20% of witnesses of bullying will resign because of a workplace bully. 

Satisfaction with HR's Response
Workplace Bullying Statistics for Training

Image Source: WBI

Organizations have the ability to fight back against workplace bullying by first acknowledging that is taking place in their company, creating anti-bullying policies and offering preventative measures against future incidences. Companies can be successful in minimizing the negative impact felt by all parties affected by this issue and as a result foster higher productivity and camaraderie among their workforce.

Bullying is not just something that happens with kids on the playground. It is a growing epidemic that elbows its way into workplaces causing a negative ripple effect throughout the organization.

It is estimated that one in six workers in the U.S. is bullied  and that bullying in the workplace is four times more common than illegal harassment. Bullying in the Workplace is detrimental to individuals and costly to organizations. 

How Many Organizations Have a Policy in Place for Bullying?Bullying in the Workplace Policy Training Handbook

Image Source: WBI


Bullying differs from harassment, which is an illegal form of discrimination, unless the bullying references certain characteristics of an individual such as race, religion, gender, sexual-orientation, and disability to name a few. The most common forms of bullying are very subtle but tend to increase in severity and frequency over time. It is not usually recognized until it is prolonged and begins to take serious negative impact on the individual and the organization.


Targets of workplace bullying can suffer emotionally and physically by having an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, anxiety and depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and in extreme situations commit suicide.


Companies feel the ripple effect of this phenomenon through the victim’s lessened productivity, absenteeism, and higher employee turnover. Bottom lines can suffer when organizations are forced to dedicate time and resources for investigations of complaints to remedy the issue to avoid potential litigation by the victim and/or the perpetrator. Company culture, employee moral  and organizational reputation also can take a hit from a bully, which hurt employee retention and future recruitment efforts. Bullies not only harm the individuals they target, but cause major negative financial implications to their employers.  When an organization is managed by bullies the damage to its reputation can scare away potential talent and hurt investor confidence.

It is estimated that organizations lose $30,000 to $100,000 annually for each incidence of bullying between turnover, healthcare costs and litigation.

Guidelines for Developing Policies to Mitigate Bullying


1. The first step in this process is  to implement a “zero tolerance” anti-bullying policy supported by management and carried out through HR. 

  • Policy listed in the Employee Handbook
  • Offers a Company definition of Bullying
  • Provides guidelines to investigate a complaint
  • Lists consequences of engaging in confirmed bullying behavior (Carden & Boyd, SHARP)

2. A simple reporting procedure for filed complaints needs to be outlined that encourages all employees to report bullying whether they experience or witness it (Volpe & Reiter, 2014). 

3. Subsequent, there can be a contract to be signed by all employees acknowledging and agreeing to abide by this policy.

4. Interactive training that is simple to administer and effective in educating an organizations employees is a great resource for prevention of bullying in the workplace. Educating your workforce at all levels is not only a good HR practice but an effective way of creating a safe and positive work environment.


Contact a Representative to See a Live Demonstration of our Bullying Prevention Courses.

Connect with author Theresa Morgan on LinkedIn.


Bible, J. D. (2012). The Jerk at Work: Workplace Bullying and the Law's Inability to Combat It. Employee Relations Law Journal, 38(1), 32-51.

Carden, L. L., & Boyd, R. O. (2013).Workplace Bullying: Utilizing a Risk Management Framework to Address Bullying in the Workplace. Southern Journal Of Business & Ethics, 58-17.

Namie, G. (2005). Workplace bullying: Hazard for healthcare professional. Retrieved from

Namie, G. (2014, November 14). How to Best Manage Workplace Bullying. (R. Montagne, Interviewer)

Oladapo, V., & Banks, L. (2013). Management Bullies: The Effect on Employees. Journal Of Business Studies Quarterly, 4(4), 107-120.

Samnani, A. (2013). The Early Stages of Workplace Bullying and How It Becomes Prolonged: The Role of Culture in Predicting Target Responses. Journal Of Business Ethics, 113(1), 119-132. doi:10.1007/s10551-012-1286-6

SHARP: Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. (2013). Stop Workplace Bullying: It's not normal - it's unreasonable. Retrieved 02, 2014, from

Volpe, M., & Reiter, N. (2014). 5 Steps to Head Off Workplace Bullying. Restaurant Hospitality, 98(1), 22.

Walter, L. (2013) Beyond the Playground: When Bullying Elbows Itself into the Workplace. EHS Today, 6(4), 32.

Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI). (2012). The WBI Website 2012 Instant Polls: Surveys A-I. Retrieved from


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