Bulling and Mobbing at Work: Looking at the Facts

On November 1st, 2013, WorkSafeBC implemented new policies aimed at preventing bullying and harassment in the workplace. Under BC’s Workers Compensation Act, employers must take reasonable steps to address the hazards posed by bulling and harassment.

I recently participated in a panel discussion on this topic at the 2013 Calgary Labour Arbitration & Policy Conference. I prepared a FACT SHEET on bully and mobbing in the workplace that may be helpful to HR, health and safety, learning and development, and wellness professionals in BC and other provinces as they develop policies and programs to address this destructive behaviours.

Bullying is generalized psychological harassment, which means that it is broader in scope and impact than gender or ethnic/racially-based harassment. It is an extreme form of disrespectful behaviour. Bullying presents a serious workplace health and safety risk and therefore is a liability for employers. Consequently, there is now recognition that employers have a duty to maintain not only a physically safe workplace, but also a psychologically safe work environment. The term “mobbing” refers to psychological aggression or harassment by a group rather than a single person.

Experts agree that organizations must not protect bullies who otherwise perform their job. Some would argue that the only effective solution to systematic bullying is to rid the workplace of the bully.

Workplace bullying can be costly for employers, including costs associated with increased prescription drugs and medical services, lost productivity due to absenteeism and presenteeism, long-term disability, and replacing workers who quit. Victims and observers of bullying also can experience reduced job satisfaction, work energy and engagement, which undermines their job performance.

Increased public awareness about the harmful effects bullying means we are seeing more of it. While Canada lacks reliable national data on the incidence of workplace bullying or mobbing, several large surveys suggest that in any given year, upwards of 1 in 4 employees may be victims of bullying.

Civility and respect are essential for employee mental wellbeing in the workplace. The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) defines a psychologically safe workplace as “One that allows no significant injury to employee mental health in negligent, reckless or intentional ways…and in which every reasonable effort is made to protect the mental health of employees.” Useful practical tools for creating a psychologically healthy and safe work environment are provided by the new voluntary  National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.

To download my Bullying and Mobbing at Work – FACT SHEET click on the title or go to: