Worker’s who witness bullying at work are more likely to want to leave their place of work than those who are a direct victim, according to a study published in the journal Human Relations.

Dr Peter Mace, Deputy Medical Director for Bupa Health and Wellbeing commented: “It’s easy to only consider the effect bullying has on its victims. However, this study highlights the wider effects bullying can have across a workplace. The research suggests that those people who witness bullying may experience feelings, such as moral outrage and unfairness to how others are being treated, and therefore have a greater desire to seek a new place to work.

“On the other hand, these results don’t actually show the true turnover rate; in fact it only suggests an intention to leave. And, there are many reasons why an employee might leave, such as a bid to further their career or relocate, rather a specific reaction to witnessing bullying. It’s also important to note that this study was only conducted on nurses. We therefore can’t be sure whether the effects of bullying would have a similar impact in other occupations or work environments.

“Essentially, bullying is a difficult behaviour to monitor and research. It can be confused because what one person may consider bullying could be very different to someone else. Nevertheless, this research does give managers another reason to watch out for workplace bullying and to stamp it out wherever possible.

“Bullying can affect everyone differently but don’t suffer in silence – talking about it can often help. Employees should be encouraged to talk to their manager or someone in their human resources department who can offer valuable advice and support.”

The study looked at 357 Canadian nurses who were asked to complete two questionnaires about their experience of bullying and intention to leave their job.

Produced in collaboration with Bupa Health Information Team, July 2012.

Key facts

  • Workplace bullying is when one individual or a group of individuals attempt to intimidate another worker, by physical or verbal abuse, humiliation or even undermining their confidence.
  • About 80 percent of UK workers have been bullied at some point during their careers.

Related hubs

  • Health at work
  • Healthy mind

Related topics

  • Presentessim
  • Work-related stress

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