Workplace Communities can Cost a Fortune – One and a Half Million Dollars to Pay for Disrespect at Work

A while ago, I wrote a White Paper titled “The Not-So-Hidden Costs of Disrespect At Work.”
It began with these two paragraphs:

If you are sitting in the comfort of your office reading this article and the sign on your office door reads ‘Human Resources,’ you’ll have a firm grasp on the hard numbers involved when you are dealing with a complaint in respectful conduct: a harassment or bullying complaint.
Issues between two employees need to be dealt with effectively. If not, when that issue eventually walks in through your door as an official complaint, you might want to alert the comptroller, as your budget is about to be hit. And hit hard.The paper was designed to highlight the importance of not waiting until a complaint of bullying or harassment arrives on your desk before identifying the need to discuss the importance of workplace relationships and how people treat each other there.When employees are simply trying to get through each day when they have a negative relationship with a colleague or a supervisor, their attention is totally distracted and their energy is sapped.

What is the impact of negative relationships in the workplace?

I feel confident that the statistics regarding the impact that negative relationships in the workplace can have on employees which I quoted in the paper 3 years ago remain as relevant today as they were back then:

 Forty-eight percent intentionally decreased their work effort
 Forty-seven percent intentionally decreased their time at work
 Thirty-eight percent intentionally decreased work quality
 Eighty percent lost time worrying about the situation
 Sixty-three percent lost time avoiding the perpetrator
 Sixty-six percent stated that their performance at work declined
 Seventy-eight percent stated that their commitment to their organization declined

None of these figures have a dollar amount assigned to them, but you know that the cumulative amount of financial and emotional damage that these sorts of results will inflict on an organization will be damaging, and could be crippling. They are often very expensive although not all of them reach the $1.4 million mark.
In addition, it won’t be just the employees involved in the situation who will be affected. Emotions, whether positive or negative, are contagious and therefore other people working in that environment will also be impacted by what is occurring.
I remember after I had finished delivering a Respectful Workplace session recently, a participant approached me afterwards to share a story. The participant told me that they had left a previous employer primarily because what they thought they were joining and what they found when they got there were two very different experiences. And despite the fact that they tried to be the change that they wanted to see, and then bringing the negative workplace behaviour to the attention (albeit in informal ways) of management, they felt that nothing was going to change – and so they left. Bullying and harassment were the norm and did not appear as though there was an appetite to change.
This person’s story is not unique.
They left despite the fact that they had initially sought out the position because the organization was recognized as a leader in their field and appeared to be a perfect fit for this person (my workshop participant), who clearly had been very upset by their experience.

Think of your workplace like the community in which you live

In the Respectful Workplace workshops that we deliver, we ask the participants to look at their workplaces as if they were their ‘communities’ where they live. In those neighbourhoods where you feel welcome and safe, you will often find a Block Watch Program – the essential premise of which is for neighbours to look out for each other as well as reporting things that look out of place or suspicious. In those neighbourhoods, where the person living next to you, treats you politely and demonstrates an interest in you, it feels welcoming and safe.
Next, translate that analogy into a workplace where your colleague is pleasant to you, respectful and actually listens to what you have to say. All of a sudden, you have an environment which is positive, full of energy and the opposite of those previously negative statistics become the norm.
Commitment, creativity and performance all increase.
Who wouldn’t want to work (live) in a community like that?
The $1,400,000 figure comes from this CBC report:

It’s the financial amount which was recently awarded to Dr. Gabrielle Horne as a result of the workplace bullying she suffered at the hands of her senior colleagues within the Nova Scotia Health Authority.The article is an important read, especially for those who feel that highly educated and senior level people in an organization couldn’t possibly be engaged in something such as bullying or harassment in today’s workplaces.
But they did and they were.
The ‘Not-So-Hidden Costs of Disrespect At Work.’
Could it happen in your workplace?
Unlikely, if you work in my analogy of a Block Watch neighbourhood.
But those don’t just appear. Sticking the Block Watch sign on the lamp-post and then hoping for the best is not enough.
To achieve this takes work. It means making an effort to work on developing and then continually focusing on a workplace culture that strengthens relationships as well as the bond that people have for one another.