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Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

by | Jan 13, 2023 | ESG

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The modern industrialised world has witnessed a paradigm shift in the workings of an organisation to ensure its viability. In their quest to sustain their business, the organisations have often relied on the maxim survival of the fittest, not being able to focus on inclusive culture as much as they would like to. About 30% of the American and 17% of the German workforce get bullied at work (Harvard Business Review, 2022). Rio Tinto, a mining giant, overlooked rampant racism, bullying and sexual harassment, with the report also saying bullying behaviour had become normalised in many workplace settings (Financial Post, 2022). Incidents of such nature would get swept under the carpet, but for the renewed public and employee activism coupled with the #metoo (The New York Times, 2018) and time’s up movements that have exposed the utopian world of the organisations, bringing them under relentless scrutiny.

Feeling respected, the belief of getting appreciated for one’s strengths and the leaders doing the right thing when faced with an issue of ethics is of utmost essence as these are signs of a truly inclusive culture (Gallup, 2020). It is pertinent to understand the critical aspect of tackling bullying and harassment in the workplace.

Bullying and Harassment

I would rather be a little nobody, than to be an evil somebody. – Abraham Lincoln

Often bullying and harassment, two of the many constituents of workplace misconduct, are thought to be the same when they are distinct from one another. Whilst bullying is psychological, with the Individual getting discriminated against because of their popularity or competence at their job, harassment entails an intense physical component where individual differences like gender, race and sexuality are the object of harassment. Negligible criticisms or false or unfair allegations, usually in private, are the symbols of bullying, whereas the use of aggressive language in public is a trademark of harassment.

Many instances of impropriety on the part of human resources have been reported lately, ensuring organisations are thick and fast in the news, albeit for the wrong reasons. Whether it is SAP, which was stunned by bullying claims and the exodus of women (Bloomberg, 2022), or Zilingo, which recently commissioned the services of Deloitte to investigate harassment complaints (The Economic Times, 2022), the writing on the wall could not have been any clearer.

Workplace bullying and harassment entail irreparable legal, reputational and financial damage, yet it is alarming to see the unabated rise of misconduct in our workplaces. Vault Platform conducted a study that found workers who took time off in 2021 due to their experience with workplace misconduct missed, on average, six days of work or 43 million sick days It resulted in a $8.54 billion loss for the U.S. economy (Forbes, 2021). Closer to home, the Treasury undertook the services of Deloitte Access Economics to evaluate the financial costs of sexual harassment in the workplace and to apprise the Australian Human Rights Commission’s National investigation into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. In 2018, workplace sexual harassment cost $2.6 billion in lost productivity and $0.9 billion in other financial costs. Employers bore 70% of the financial costs, government 23% and individuals 7% (Deloitte, 2020).

Channeling resources to fight this menace at the earliest should become the priority of organisations across the globe before they get labelled as toxic (CNBC, 2022) by their employees.

Role of the Employees

According to a survey conducted by Trade Union Congress, 46% of the respondents opined that bullying has an impact on work performance, and the same percentage of people felt that it harmed their mental health (Forbes, 2018), causing stress, damaged self-esteem, weakened mental functioning and also threatening emotional and physical health. The onus tends to fall on the employees to raise it and seek intervention by-

• Talking to the manager.

• Talking to a workplace healthcare safety professional.

• Speaking to the human resources department.

• Lodging a formal complaint.

Role of the Management

Grappling with issues as sensitive as this demands a potent and accountable leadership which intervenes to prevent immoral workplace behaviour, giving teeth to management.

According to Forbes –

  • 66% of bosses are bullies.

  • 61% of targets remain silent.

  • 22% of co-workers turned a blind eye.

  • 64% of bullied employees lost their jobs when they tried to end the harassment (Forbes, 2019).

The prerogative and mission of discerning management should be to ensure zero tolerance for workplace misconduct. To restrain it, the management should –

  • Ensure mutual respect and professionalism.

  • Set the tone.

  • Empower employees.

  • Ensure accountability.

  • Guarantee diversity (Forbes, 2021)

Advantages of Integrating ESG

Millennials and Gen Z place greater importance on social concerns as compared to their predecessors. NASDAQ has identified discrimination and harassment initiatives that companies should track (Benefits Pro, 2022). It has pushed the social component of ESG to the forefront. ESG believes in making clear and succinct guidelines which assist employers in taking firm action to prevent workplace misconduct.

The ever-evolving and dynamic organisational setup, coupled with a board and stakeholders who are aware and responsible, should ensure employing safe and apt channels for employees to raise apprehensions about misbehaviour. If an issue gets raised or reported, mechanisms to address it respectfully and responsibly must be there. It augurs well because maximising the psychological well-being of the workforce helps maintain psychological, relational and workplace health, thereby arresting the development of bullying and harassment in the workplace.


1. Benefits Pro, 2022. Commentary. [Online] Available at:

2. Bloomberg, 2022. Equality. [Online] Available at:

3. CNBC, 2022. Work. [Online] Available at:

4. Deloitte, 2020. Article. [Online] Available at:

5. Financial Post, 2022. Commodities. [Online] Available at:

6. Forbes, 2018. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. [Online] Available at:

7. Forbes, 2019. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. [Online] Available at:

8. Forbes, 2021. Leadership Strategy. [Online] Available at:

9. Gallup, 2020. Education. [Online] Available at:

10. Harvard Business Review, 2022. Business Management. [Online] Available at:

11. The Economic Times, 2022. Startups. [Online] Available at:

12. The New York Times, 2018. Interactive. [Online] Available at:


13. Citation, n.d. HR & Employment Law. [Online] Available at:

14. PNG EGG, n.d. [Online] Available at:

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