A total of 1.7 million days are lost due to workplace bullying at a cost to the economy of €239 million per year, according to new research.
The findings are contained in a new NUI Galway study on workplace bullying, led by Dr John Cullinan of the Discipline of Economics and Dr Margaret Hodgins from the Discipline of Health Promotion. The study has been published in the journal Occupational Medicine.
In addition, the study finds that although bullying is more prevalent in the public sector, it has a larger effect on absences in the private sector.
Workplace bullying is defined as aggressive behaviour perpetrated by one or more people, 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. The current study builds on this to examine the economic costs of workplace bullying.
The research describes the range of impacts of workplace bullying on individuals and organisations. Using statistical methods, it estimates the number of workdays lost as a result of workplace bullying and calculates the economic value of the associated lost productivity.
Commenting on the study, Dr 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.”
Tackle the problem
Dr Hodgins called for organisations to adopt anti-bullying policies in order to tackle the problem.
“To tackle the problem, organisations need an anti-bullying policy in order to signal to staff that bullying is unacceptable,” she said.
“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.”