One of my new favorites in the HR blog world is HR Blunders. While it’s unlikely any of the savvy readers of this blog would find themselves appearing on the pages of a story there, it makes for some interesting reading. In browsing some back issues, I came upon a post about bullying lawsuits that cited a recent survey putting the number of working adults who experience workplace bullying at 37%. That’s roughly about 54 million people.
Finding that statistic a bit surprising, I dug up more on the original Zogby survey on workplace bullying, which was conducted among more than 7,000 working US adults in 2007. Of the 37% who reported being bullied at work, 72% identified the bullies as bosses. Bullying is about 4 times more prevalent than illegal forms of “harassment.” And the number one way that the bullying was stopped? The victims lost their jobs: 40% left voluntarily, 24% were terminated or driven out, and 13% transferred out of the department. Only 23% reported that there were any consequences for the harasser. Wow!
While there are a number of sources citing huge costs associated with bullying, it’s hard to know how those estimates were derived or how accurate they are. Nevertheless, it is clear the costs to businesses are high. Certainly, turnover is costly and employment practices litigation is a cost that we all dread. But there are also many associated costs that are more difficult to quantify, such as stress related disease, disability, workers compensation claims, and damage to the organization’s reputation.
We periodically have a supervisor or coworker referred to us for counseling after incidents of inappropriate behavior, such as anger or gender-based harassment. An informal survey of our counselors tells me that addressing bulling through such interventions can be a very effective way of changing that behavior. Our chances of success increase dramatically if the referral is handled well at the start, and the highest rehabilitation success rate occurs when management and the EAP work together.
Kathleen Jahnke, our Clinical Director, makes the following suggestion for making such a referral to an EAP:

  • Prepare for the meeting. Call and talk to a counselor in advance to help you formulate your strategy for the meeting.
  • Stick to the facts. Focus on the inappropriate behavior that has been reported or observed.
  • Avoid trying to diagnose the problem or suggest the person needs counseling.
  • Advise the employee that the EAP will assist them with the tools they need to help them resolve their workplace issue.
  • Make your expectations for workplace behavior clear and outline the consequences for failure to meet the requirements.

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