There is a huge human cost associated with workplace bullying: interrupted careers, depression, anxiety, physical ailments, not to mention social isolation, and additional stress on the family. And unfortunately, workplace bullying can and does cause some to commit suicide.
I give a lot of presentations on workplace bullying because it’s an important topic to me. It destroys so many lives, cripples so many organisations and drains the economy of so much innovation that it needs to be addressed in a serious manner.
After my talk, a woman came up to me and said that her adult son was sent home from work on a Wednesday afternoon. The employer didn’t give the son any warning or explanation as to why he was sent home. The son ended taking a leave of absence from work. Upon his return from work, the son later found out that he was sent home because the employer feared he would commit suicide on the job because of the stress related to workplace bullying.
I’m not sure what is more shocking: that the employer allowed workplace bullying to the point when an employee was suicidal or that the employer sent an employee home without support, assistance or resources because they feared they would commit suicide on the job. The sad logic of this approach is: be in pain, be suicidal… just not on the job.
For those who are wondering, the son is getting appropriate support and has returned to work on a part-time basis.
I wanted to point out this story to stress that an employer’s responsibility doesn’t end when the employee goes home. When it comes to workplace bullying, the psychological, physical and emotional effects are carried by the employee throughout the entire day, even when they get home.
If you suspect an employee is suicidal, ensure they have appropriate supports. You have a responsibility to the other employees in the workplace to not expose them to potential violence as well as a responsibility to the employee who is in crisis. Contact local mental health practitioners, contact suicide prevention centres, contact the employee’s emergency contact person, reach out to hospitals who may be resources that you can refer the person to. Don’t just hope the employee harms themselves outside of work, thinking that this absolves the company of any responsibility.
Have you had to address an employee in crisis? How did you handle it? I’d like to know.
PS: don’t forget to actually address the workplace bullying itself!
Allo there ~ I'm Renée and this is my blog on leadership and business development. Here I explore the nexus between leadership, conflict resolution, networks, innovation and prosperity.