Helge Hoel, Ståle Einarsen and Cary L. Cooper
From the very start of research into workplace bullying, attention has been paid to the negative effects the experience may have on victims (see Einarsen and Mikkelsen, this volume). This is not surprising as such effects can be considered part and parcel of the bullying experience (Leymann, 1996). By contrast, much less attention has been paid to a possible relationship between bullying and organisational outcomes. In relation to sexual harassment cases, Pryor (1987) suggested that costs to the organisation include both direct costs relating to sick leave, turnover, reduced productivity among both victims and work groups, and costs in relation to potential litigation. In this respect Leymann (1990) argues that a case of bullying may cost the organisation around $30,000 to $100,000 each year.
Victims of bullying are typically subjected to either direct aggression, in the form of verbal abuse or humiliating and belittling remarks, or more indirect types of behaviour, such as gossiping and rumours, which undermine the personal as well as the professional standing of the target (O'Moore et al., 1998). These behaviours are 'used with the aim or at least the effect of persistently humiliating, intimidating, frightening or punishing the victim' (Einarsen, 2000). Unsurprisingly, the exposure to persistent negative behaviours may have a significant impact on the targets, making them constantly less able to cope with daily tasks and co-operation requirements of the job (Einarsen, 2000). As with other forms of occupational stress (Cooper et al., 1996: Hoel et al., 2001), exposure to bullying is, therefore, likely to manifest itself behaviourally as well as attitudinally. Thus, research has found a relatively strong negative association between exposure to bullying and lowered job satisfaction (Hoel and Cooper, 2000a; Keashly and Jagatic, 2000; Price Spratlen, 1995; Quine, 1999), and commitment (Hoel and Cooper, 2000a).
According to Field (1996), himself a victim of bullying, 'the person becomes withdrawn, reluctant to communicate for fear of further criticism. This results in accusations of “withdrawal'', “sullenness”, “not co-operating or communicating”,, “lack of team spirit”, etc.' (p. 128).