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Profit, Productivity & Peace – The Business Case for Eliminating Workplace Bullying

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By Paul Pelletier, LL.B, PMP

Vancouver, BC, Canada


Introduction

Bullying can be as harmful to business profits, productivity and workplace harmony as it is in schools and other areas of society. If asked, most business leaders most likely know that workplace bullying causes the well serious health impacts for targets. They would probably also agree that they feel a moral and ethical obligation to respond. However, despite studies, much publicity and even expanding illegalization, the majority of organizations throughout the world remain ineffective or unmotivated to proactively prevent or directly confront workplace bullying. Sadly, the rates of workplace bullying are increasingly dramatically.

Perhaps the key to unlocking organizational response is to focus on the broader business impacts that could harm the bottom line, program/project success, and wreak havoc within their employee ranks. Let’s forget for a moment about the moral, emotional and ethical reasons why organizations should eliminate workplace bullying. Instead, let’s focus our arguments on profits, financial incentives, and ROI. Bluntly put, ending bullying is just plain good for business.

The statistics are clear and irrefutable – workplace bullying is costing businesses billions of dollars annually. For every short-term result that a bully might create (i.e. a project completed on time and budget, or a previously struggling unit whipped back into shape), there is a long list of longer-term negative business impacts that far outweigh any temporary benefits. To quote Patricia Barnes, a workplace bullying author, judge and attorney, workplace bullying is likely the “single most preventable and needless expense on a company’s register.

I maintain that if we focus our anti-bullying message to align with the motivators of business leaders, we may receive more positive engagement from them. By focusing on the things that motivate business leaders to listen and using a “what’s in it for you” strategy, I believe we can become change leaders to move our organizations to an effective and meaningful zero-tolerance policy for workplace bullying.

Exhibit 1 – It’s Time for Business to Do the Right Thing

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Before we begin a conversation with our organizations highlighting why bullying is bad for business, we must first ensure we have the baseline information to be credible and persuasive with our organizational leaders, corporate executives and Boards of Directors. Attacking the problem like project managers, we need to have a strong, proof-based business case that includes a costs/benefits analysis and convincing needs analysis. We should have a clear understanding of what bullying is (and isn’t), proof it is a serious and growing problem, irrefutable information about the negative financial impacts caused by bullying and a Return on Investment that highlights the opportunity cost of failing to act and solidly demonstrates that taking action pays economic dividends to the organization.

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About the Author

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Paul Pelletier

Vancouver, BC, Canada

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Paul Pelletier, LL.B., PMP, is a workplace respect consultant, corporate lawyer, project manager and executive. He works with organizations to prevent, manage and eliminate workplace bullying. His book “Workplace Bullying – It’s just Bad for Business” highlights how bullying is lethal to project management and business success. He also serves as a member of the PMI Ethics Member Advisory Group. He has published articles, presented webinars, workshops and been a presenter at many PMI events, including Global Congresses, Leadership Institute Meetings and Chapter events. Paul Pelletier can be reached at http://www.paulpelletierconsulting.com/ or ppelletier@telus.net