With media placing so much attention on bullying in recent weeks, and with the obvious misunderstanding of the gravity of bullying by school administrators and law makers alike, I wondered if one could present bullying in a light that administrators and political leadership would grasp, and perhaps act upon. The economy of bullying gives powerful, rarely bullied, almost always the bully, administrators and political leaders a re-framing of a problem they otherwise would not, and have not, addressed.
This article examines the economic impact of bullying and the economy’s impact on bullying.
Economy’s Impact on Bullying
First, its important to realize that bullying is not just a ‘kid’ thing and does not only happen within school walls. As the Megan Meier case (additional information) and the more recent case of Tyler Clementi (additional information) have shown, bullying is not just between nor perpetrated by children.
Asking ourselves where most adults are likely to interact with one another and the uncomfortable response is clear. The workplace. Researchers have found that due to the ailing economy, bullying in the workplace is on the rise (source).
Bullying is a power play. If an individual feels a loss of power or dignity, that individual may seek power through bullying another. As adults, this can play out at home or in the workplace. Cuts in pay, demotions, and loss of hours can leave a person filling that psychological void through bullying.
Impact of Bullying on the Economy
Workplace bullying is costly
Making a short inferential leap, if bullying is on the rise in the workplace, and bullying requires time for the bully to engage in the act, and bullying leaves the victim fearful and uncomfortable at best, then it follows that time is being taken out of the workday due to workplace bullying. What does this mean?
Economically, an increase in workplace bullying means decreased productivity in the workplace. Decreased productivity means decreases in profits. Decreased profits means the employer, and in turn the consumer, is having to pay (literally) for workplace bullying. With simple and cheap intervention, bullying can cease, leaving the employer with more productive employees. Besides, firing the bully would allow an employer to hire someone with less seniority and therefore cheaper wages.
Without treatment, childhood bullying costs the U.S. economically
Its easy to recognize that prolonged bullying can lead to suicide by the victim, but what happens when the victim survives? Studies show that victims of prolonged and severe bullying bring their childhood traumas into adulthood (source). Economically this means two things.
First, victims with depression or other social problems as a result of bullying will not be active, productive citizens. Inactive people are the opposite of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are the innovators and movers of economies. More innovators, stronger economy.
Second, depressed workers, as mentioned already, are not as productive as those without depression or other psychological problems due to childhood bullying.
What about the bully?
Studies show that bullies bully because their own psychological problems. Problems that range from depression to their own traumatic pasts. Without intervention by school administrators, the bully will likely grow up to be just as maladjusted as the bully’s victim. This means that when the bully begins to enter the workforce, the same rules apply that apply to the victim: loss of productivity as an individual worker in the workplace or entrepreneur.
Why make this argument?
This is a callous argument that does not consider the victim, or the bully as human beings, as individuals. However, because school administrators and political leaders are unwilling to intervene in situations they do not understand as severe, it is important to focus attention to what matters to them: economics.
By redirecting the argument of bullying to its economic implications, school administrators and political leaders might actually work to alleviate childhood bullying and workplace bullying. At this point, the outcome is more important than the argument used to achieve that necessary outcome.
Rene Mullen; Another Teen Commits Suicide to Stop Bullying; Associatedcontent.com
Patricia McDougall, Shelley Hymel, Tracy Vaillancou; What Happens Over Time to Those Who Bully and Those Who are Victimized?; Education.com
Stacy Teicher Khadaroo; Rutgers student death: Has Digital Age made students callous?; CSMonitor.com
Workplace Bullying on the Rise in Weakened Economy; WJLA.com