More Thoughts About the Problems of Bullies in the Workplace

More Thoughts About the Problems of Bullies in the Workplace

Today I was interviewed for a new women’s interest radio network available only on the internet. Lisa Singer conducted the interview; we mostly talked about pregnancy discrimination issues, and how the law is slowly improving, and anti-bullying legislation, where the law is stagnated. The interview should be available soon (under September 18) at the website.

The workplace bullying institute has drafted model legislation, but to date no state has adopted it. As Ms. Singer noted, a rational economic employer should either favor the bully if he or she is so economically valuable that the belittling behavior is overshadowed by his value to the organization. But that overlooks three important points: first, my experience with employees suffering under insufferable employees has shown me that employers are sometimes not interested in complaints. This indicates that many of them are not doing the economic analysis of which employees are more valuable, they are instead choosing not to get involved.

Second, a supervisor who makes subordinates miserable is unlikely to be helping the bottom line if he makes people leave. An employer typically invests a lot in the recruitment and training of its people. If they are driven off, more people need to be recruited (people who have not been forewarned).

Third, miserable people can’t be as helpful for the bottom line. Studies show that engaged workers who think their contributions are valued make better employees. People who are dragging themselves to work, when they are not staying home because too depressed to go back to the office, are probably going through the motions. And they are unlikely to be taking creative risks.

I hope that this issue will gain some traction.  The issues of physical abuse are now front and center. Mental abuse in the workplace can be quite damaging, too, and no one is  happy except the bully who is allowed to continue unchecked.

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