New research published in Occupational Medicine estimates the economic value of lost productivity from workplace bullying in Ireland.
Bullying in the workplace is costing the Irish economy €239 million every year according to a new study by NUI Galway.
The research was led by Dr John Cullinan of the discipline of economics and Dr Margaret Hodgins from the discipline of health promotion and investigated all aspects of workplace bullying.
Overall, the research estimates that a total of 1.7 million days were lost last year due to bullying, and while bullying is more prevalent in the public sector, it has a larger effect on absences in the private sector.
Workplace bullying is aggressive behaviour perpetrated by one or more persons, repeatedly and systematically over a prolonged time period, where the targeted person feels unable to defend themselves.
In a previous study, the NUI Galway research team highlighted the relationship between bullying and work-related stress in the Irish workplace. This recent study builds on this to examine the economic costs of workplace bullying.
“Workplace bullying is a pervasive problem with significant personal and wider costs.”
In 2014, Ireland was named the seventh worst country in Europe for workplace bullying, while in 2018, a separate study found that two in five people experienced bullying in their work environment.
Companies with reward strategies can also, sometimes inadvertently, promote inappropriate workplace behaviour including bullying – for example if employees are evaluated based on group performance, low performing team members may become the target of criticism and frustration, meanwhile supervisors with high performing subordinates may become bullies to those they perceived as a threat.
Commenting on the study, Dr John Cullinan said: “Workplace bullying is a pervasive problem with significant personal and wider costs. Our study highlights the considerable economic cost of workplace bullying in Ireland.
“In addition to lost productivity from workplace bullying, there are also likely to be costs associated with early retirement and presenteeism. Furthermore, bullying-related costs are unlikely to have gone away as a result of new COVID-19 work-from-home practices.”
Workplace bullying often manifests itself in two ways; directly or indirectly.
“To tackle the problem, organisations need an anti-bullying policy in order to signal to staff that bullying is unacceptable”
Direct bullying can be anything from verbal threats to acts of violence or public humiliation and while awful to endure, it is easily identified and, in theory, easier for HR managers or company owners to address.
Indirect bullying is a lot more common in the Irish workforce and is harder not only to identify, but to prove and therefor eradicate.
Dr Margaret Hodgins added; “To tackle the problem, organisations need an anti-bullying policy in order to signal to staff that bullying is unacceptable. However, a policy is insufficient in itself and it is vital that it is implemented fairly and in a timely fashion. Ideally, organisations should be proactive, identifying how and when bullying occurs in the organisation, and be prepared to develop specific interventions that are appropriate to context.”
To read more on the findings by Dr John Cullinan and Dr Margaret Hodgins, click here.
By Stephen Larkin
Published: 26 May, 2020