May 19th, 2014
Workplace Bullying: U.S. Employers’ Reactions
EMPLOYER REACTION TO BULLYING in 2014
In 2014 at the time of the Survey, there was no state or federal law yet enacted to compel American employers to address abusive conduct that occurred outside the limited definitions of illegal discriminatory actions. The absence of a law means that employers may tolerate misconduct without legal risk. Of course, repeated abusive conduct, as defined in the prevalence question, does prove costly for employers who choose to ignore it. Tangible costs include unwanted turnover of key skilled personnel, absenteeism, higher insurance costs (health and employment practices liability), and litigation expenses. Intangible costs include: damage to institutional reputation and an impaired ability to recruit and retain the best talent.
A rational employer would seek to minimize preventable costs and strive to eliminate demonstrable abusive conduct. A 2013 WBI poll conducted by Zogby of Business Leaders, CXO-level corporate leaders, showed that 68% of executives considered “workplace bullying a serious problem.” And according to this current 2014 Survey, 48% of Americans are affected by bullying. Given the confluence of this awareness, we asked the public how employers were voluntarily dealing with bullying without needing to comply with laws.
Question: What do you know to be the most common American employer reaction to complaints of abusive conduct (when it is not illegal discrimination)?
Respondents were clear that employers fail to appropriately react to abusive conduct much more frequently than they take positive steps ameliorate bullying. Denial and discounting were the most common reactions by employers.
The 6% condemnation rate in this Survey matches the rate in a separate WBI study (WBI 2012 IP-B) given by targets to describe how many good employers had created effective anti-bullying policies and who had faithfully enforced them (5.5%).
Research Assistants: Daniel Christensen & David Phillips
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