Bullying at work 'costs millions'

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(First Edition)

BULLYING at work costs British industry millions of pounds a year in absenteeism, sick leave and reduced productivity.

Andrea Adams, who has written a 200-page study on the phenomenon, said the effects of bullying were like a 'malignant cancer' and it was too costly to ignore the problem.

Bullies oppressed subordinates through fear and set out to make people feel inadequate. Persistent criticism and abuse humiliated the victims and demeaned the individual. But bullying happened throughout industry, she told a seminar at the conference.

Often the bully was well thought of by his superiors because his domineering behaviour was only shown when they were absent. Ms Adams said they often exhibited 'Jekyll and Hyde' characteristics.

A managing director of one company had such an impact on his staff that they could not work for hours after one of his visits.

A chief executive of a local authority had been responsible for a two-year reign of terror which had affected all 70 of his staff. One employee had been asked to produce a report which he duly completed to the exact specifications of the chief executive, only to be told it was 'a load of shit'. He was asked to do it again to completely different specifications.

Bullying could be responsible for high absenteeism, a rapid staff turnover, prolonged sick leave, low morale and reduced output.

It was often difficult to complain about a bully, because employees would be drawing attention to the fact that their professional competence was being called into question.

One male teacher in his fifties, said of a colleague: 'At one time I even contemplated putting a bomb under her car, just to get her to stop. Suicide would have been a blessed release.'

A civil servant said: 'It put a terrible strain on my marriage because I became depressed. It still appalls me that when she came into the room I'd go white and shake.'

Ms Adams said bullying led to a deep-rooted anger and a feeling of impotence. 'It is hardly surprising that these men and women find their lives dominated by what takes place at work.'