Do you know what workplace bullying is costing your business?

Even as business leaders prioritize inclusive and psychologically safe work environments, workplace bullying remains a significant and costly challenge in Canada.

A recent study looking at harassment and violence in Canadian workplaces found that 71.4% of workers experienced at least one form of harassment and abuse in their workplace last year. Women, Indigenous peoples, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and people of colour were more likely to have experienced toxic work environments and workplace harassment.

These figures are extremely troubling and help pull back the curtain on the true extent of the problem. Globally, the movement toward ending bullying and harassment in the workplace is gaining steam. In 2019, The International Labor Organization (ILO) ratified the first international treaty to address violence and harassment in the workplace, called the Violence and Harassment Convention. All workers deserve to be free from violence and harassment in the workplace and failing to protect employees could be considered a human rights violation.

So, if you aren’t actively working to address and prevent bullying in your workplace, you need to start. Let’s take a look at some of the true costs of allowing bullying to go unchecked.

When Does Bullying Occur?

First, it is important to understand what workplace bullying is and how it differs from normal conflict in the workplace.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety defines workplace bullying as “as acts or verbal comments that could psychologically or ‘mentally’ hurt or isolate a person in the workplace [and sometimes] negative physical contact as well. Bullying usually involves repeated incidents or a pattern of behaviour that is intended to intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate a particular person or group of people.

Bullies are typically characterized by abuse of power dynamics, unfair and inconsistent treatment, manipulation, emotional outbursts and a focus on self-interest. This is distinctly different from a “tough boss” who may have high expectations for performance, but treats all employees equally, offers mentorship ad support when needed, and keeps the focus on collective goals.

What Happens When Bullying Goes Unchecked?

Given that we typically spend most of our waking hours at work, the impact of workplace bullying can’t be understated. It can affect every aspect of our lives, from our mental and physical health to even the well-being of our children, partners, family, and friends.

But beyond the emotional impacts of bullying, there are very real financial costs too.

These include:

  • Lost productivity due to absenteeism, burnout, disengagement, and distraction.
  • Increased healthcare costs due to the physical effects of stress leading to more sick leaves and increased healthcare needs.
  • Increased turnover due to a lack of job satisfaction and difficulty hiring top talent.
  • Legal liabilities brought on by worker’s compensation claims or other lawsuits.
  • Damage to organizational reputation.

What Should Employers Do?

Tackling workplace bullying requires a firm and transparent, top-down commitment to equitable, inclusive, and psychologically safe workplaces. That starts both with having a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and harassment, but more importantly, a process in place for reporting and responding to complaints when they arise. It is essential in tackling workplace bullying to provide employees with a process for reporting concerns and provide assurance that when they do so, a prompt, thorough and organized and retaliation-free investigation will be conducted.

For many businesses, a neutral, third-party investigator can play an essential role in ensuring that investigations are compliant, fair and viewed as unbiased by the parties involved.

When it comes to tackling workplace bullying, the costs of doing nothing are extremely high. Putting a stop to bullying is clearly a legal obligation and a business imperative, and far more importantly, it’s the right thing to do.


Cenera’s team of HR Professionals and Workplace Investigators are experts in preventing and navigating sensitive workplace issues, investigating complaints and delivering workplace bullying and prevention training for employees and managers. 


If your organization needs support, Cenera is here to help. Reach out to us today to learn more. 


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