New research shows that people who witness bullying in the workplace can have a stronger urge to quit their jobs than those who are actually the victims of bullying.
“We tend to assume that people experiencing bullying bear the full brunt,” said Sandra Robinson, Ph.D., a professor at the University of British Columbia and co-author of the study, which was published in the journal Human Relations.
“However, our findings show that people across an organization experience a moral indignation when others are bullied that can make them want to leave in protest.”
The researchers used data collected through two surveys of 357 nurses in 41 units of a large Canadian health authority. Prior research shows that bullying is prevalent in the health care industry, especially among nurses, the researchers note.
The surveys asked a series of questions to assess the level of bullying in each nursing unit, as well as the individual experience of bullying of each respondent.
The researchers then captured respondents’ intentions to quit their jobs in units where bullying was pervasive, asking them to rate their positive or negative reactions to statements like, “If I had a chance, I would change to some other organization.”
Findings show that all respondents who experience bullying, either directly or indirectly, reported a greater desire to quit their jobs than those who did not. However, the results also indicate that people who experienced it as bystanders or with less frequency reported wanting to quit in even greater numbers.
Robinson warns that even if employees stay, an organization’s productivity can suffer if staff members want to leave.
“Managers need to be aware that the behavior is pervasive and it can have a mushrooming effect that goes well beyond the victims,” said Robinson.
“Ultimately bullies can hurt the bottom line and need to be dealt with quickly and publicly so that justice is restored to the workplace.”
Source: University of British Columbia