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Bullying leads to stress, which leads to bad decisions
April 30, 2012
CALGARY, AB, Apr. 30, 2012/ Troy Media/ – Bullying is bad for business.
When people are bullied, they make bad decisions. Bad decisions lead to failed projects, claims and lawsuits.
In today’s economy, businesses can’t afford to make bad decisions. One study showed that one in four people at work is bullied. That’s a lot of bad decisions that could be avoided if the bullying stops.
Bullying leads to higher stress levels
What is the connection between bullying and bad decisions? Stress hormones. When we’re under attack, stress hormones course through our veins, including those in our head. And bullying is an attack.
Stress hormones slow down activity in the prefrontal cortex (just behind your forehead). The higher the stress level, the more stress hormones are released. The prefrontal cortex is where more complex thinking occurs: decision-making, planning, error monitoring and self-control. Slowing down the prefrontal cortex leads to bad decisions and mistakes, and both are bad for business.
Cortisol (a stress hormone) slows Broca’s Area, which is vital for language and speech. Have you ever searched for a word you wanted to say when you were under pressure? It was on the tip of your tongue, yet it took you a moment or two to find it. Cortisol had slowed down your Broca’s Area. We need a fully-functioning Broca’s Area to speak with other people, to understand what they’re saying to us and even to write those e-mails and read those instruction manuals.
Bullying leads to fuzzy focus. When we’re bullied, we focus on the bully and the bullying itself, not what’s triggering the bully to bully. Not on the work at hand: Fuzzy focus on work, razor sharp focus on the bully.
Imagine that you’re walking in the mountains and you come across a growling grizzly. You immediately focus on that growling grizzly and then gradually start thinking about how to get away. You don’t think about what you’re going to have for dinner that night because you just might be dinner. The moment you see and hear that growling grizzly, high levels of stress hormones are released so that you can focus entirely on the growling grizzly, and getting away. This is a good strategy when you’re in a life-and-death situation, but not so good at work.
When bullied, people focus on the bully, not on the task at hand. Those who are bullied and those who see others being bullied become preoccupied with thinking about the bully boss and what the bully boss might do next. They focus on ‘What will the boss think?’ and ‘What will the boss do?’ and ‘What will I do then?’
Bullying leads to poor productivity. Bully bosses believe that their bullying energizes their employees and gets them to work harder and faster. The employees may move faster and work longer, but their work will not be as good because stress hormones have dampened their thinking processes. It’s easier to miss that key number, to miscalculate, to misread that contract or proposal, to misunderstand what others are saying. The employees may be moving faster, but they’re also making mistakes faster. Mistakes can be expensive and lead to lawsuits.
High stress leads to disease
The connection between high stress and disease is amply documented. Bullied employees catch colds and flus more easily. When they come in to work, the cold and flu bugs attach themselves to other employees. High stress leads to serious problems such as cardiovascular disease and digestive disorders. That means more absences and higher health costs for the business, again lowering the bottom line.
Bullying creates a toxic atmosphere. Working in a toxic atmosphere is unpleasant, to say the least. Given a choice, people will not work in a toxic workplace. For businesses, that means a higher turnover rate and difficulty finding people to work there. Again, increased costs and lower bottom lines.
In today’s economy, businesses can improve their bottom line by reducing the bullying within their business and learning to cope with the bullies in the marketplace without bullying back. I’ve seen companies that were doing well thrive after a bully manager leaves. I’ve seen companies that were doing well struggle after a bully boss arrives. It’s not a coincidence. It’s that bullying is bad for business.
Anne E McTavish is a Calgary-based lawyer. She can be reached at www.FistFreeLanguage.com
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