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Study Says Workplace Bullying May Be Driving Workers' Compensation Costs Higher

Posted by Christine Foster on November 16, 2015

How workplace bullying can increase workers’ compensation costs

Bullies, we picture in our minds "Biff", the bully from the Back to the Future movies, a big brute who always picked on the little guy in high school. But for many, the workplace isn’t high school and the stakes are a lot higher than being on the receiving end of childish pranks.

For employers, the workplace bully can just as easily be Secretary Sally or Director Don and, believe it or not, they are silently costing your company thousands of dollars.

What Is Workplace Bullying?

Workplace bullying is a pattern of behavior that harms, intimidates, undermines, offends, degrades or humiliates an employee, possibly in front of other employees, clients or customers and is considered a serious health and safety issue in Washington State. The targets of bullying may suffer from mental or physical health problems and financial problems for many years as a result.

Bullying circumstances can involve:

  • Bosses, management or supervisors against their subordinates
  • Employees against their peers
  • A group of co-workers targeting another worker

If a company doesn’t have strict guidelines or policies against workplace bullying or disregards repeated complaints, it can then be perceived as acceptable behavior and becomes universally accepted as part of the workplace culture.

Workplace bullying often involves misuse or an abuse of power. Bullying behavior creates feelings of defenselessness and anxiety in the target and undermines an individual’s right to dignity at work.

Bullying and Workers Compensation Costs

Workplace mistreatment and office bullying contributes to employer losses of more than $4 billion in annual absences, including in workers’ compensation and disability insurance.

According to a study performed by researchers at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, which examined the association between workplace mistreatment and occurrence, duration and costs of sickness absenteeism.

Researchers found that 7.6% of US workers employed at the time of the survey reported having been mistreated at their workplace. Both occurrence and duration of sickness absences were higher for mistreated workers than for non-mistreated workers. The results showed that being mistreated was associated with a 42% increase in the number of missed workdays.

"The marginal effect analysis showed that lost workdays differed by 2.45 days between mistreated and non-mistreated workers. This implies that workplace mistreatment was associated with $4.1 billion, or 5.5%, of sickness absenteeism costs."

The study concluded that workplace bullying is associated with sickness absence in the United States and revealed the economic importance of developing workplace bullying prevention strategies.

Researchers also noted that workplace bullying, which could include everything from intimidation, insults, withholding information or gossiping, to false accusations of mistakes and errors; hostile glares; covert criticism, sabotage and undermining one’s reputation, often caused anxiety, stress, depressive symptoms and even post-traumatic stress disorder in affected workers.

"As exposure to bullying increases, the risk of depressive symptoms also increases. Besides targets of workplace bullying, employees who observed workplace bullying have also reported stress and anxiety."

The study’s final determination was that office bullying was associated with a 42% increase in the number of missed workdays and resulting workers’ compensation claims.

What Can I Do if I Am Being Bullied at Work?

It is important to recognize and remember that you are the one being bullied and that you are not the source of the problem. Bullying is about control, and therefore, it has nothing to do with your job performance.

Here are a few things you can do to help you regain control:

  • Keep a detailed log of the bullying incidents (dates, times, places, what was done or said and who was present)
  • Keep documents that contradict the bully’s accusations, such as timesheets, audit reports, etc.
  • Expect the bully to deny and even misconstrue your accusations; always have a witness during meetings with the person
  • If possible, report the behavior to an appropriate and safe person
  • Find support from trusted people at work, outside of work and at home

If You Are Being Bullied at Your Job and Have Questions About Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Seattle, Washington, Contact the Professionals at Foster Law, PC

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