Take a guess at how much workplace bullying costs companies. Now double it

Bullies drain HR’s budget in ways you may never have considered – and that’s without the legal costs associated if a new type of bill passes in your region

Have you ever estimated how much bullying drains your budget? Executive coach Kalli Matsuhashi did the math on large companies, and estimated the cost of replacing employees who leave because of bullying will cost $36.1million at a company of 10,000 employees with annual revenue of $500million. Naturally, it makes the assumption that everyone who is bullied leaves, which may not always be the case.

However, separate research by the Workplace Bullying Institute puts the figure of those who do leave after experiencing bullying at 61%. And considering 27% of Americans claim to have been a victim, that leaves companies at serious risk for bully-related turnover.

And if new “Healthy Workplace” laws against bullying ever get passed, the costs will be even higher. The campaign to legislate against abusive workplaces has been underway since 2003, and 26 states have introduced such bills to their Houses as a result. The latest state to consider the legislation was Tennessee in late January.

If passed, the bills would introduce legal protections from “abusive work environments”, providing a new avenue for litigation for employees. However, it would not require state or federal agencies to enforce the law, much like similar laws in Sweden, the UK, France Ireland and parts of Canada. In Australia, workplace bullying is considered criminal conduct according to a world-first law passed in 2011.

To prevent any unwanted costs, try these tips:

Train employees It’s common practice to train employees on ways to keep physically safe, so why not train them to do the same for their emotional wellbeing? "Physical dangers are typically well covered by health and safety training and processes,” says Krissa Cavouras of MySafetySign. “(There) is a lack of focus on more hidden dangers like stress, overwork, and bullying." This week, a survey by Morrison & Foerster identified only one employer out of 101 that provided training for workplace bullying.

Apply policies universally Anybody in HR knows that the easiest way to give the EEOC evidence for discrimination is to apply company policies to some people and not to others. But it’s also an easy way to annoy employees and muddy your message against bullying. “Management must examine and take responsibility for the messages it sends out,” says Sandi Edwards at the American Management Association. “The culture has to change, and that initiative must start at the top.”
Unfortunately, this is not the case at many companies, the WBI found. Nearly two in 10 employers who received bullying complaints defended or encouraged the accused, according to the victims.

Ensure complainants understand how their case will be investigated The WBI study found that one in four of those who witnessed or received bullying said their employers did not investigate. A further 31% said the company discounted the complaint as not serious. Whether or not this is true does not affect the negative perception of the companies in their employees’ eyes.

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