Let us start with the most immediate impact and work our way out.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs postulates that human beings are motivated (or demotivated) based on how well our needs are being met (or not) in a given situation. These needs are catagorized thus:
The foundational level concerns how well our physical needs are being met. We need essentials like sleep, breathable air, nourishment, water and a place to live. The workplace bully might start undermining his or her employees right at this very basic level with unrealistic expectations that must be met in order to remain employed, necessitating that the employee work more hours than is physically healthy.
The second level is all about security. Notice that this need is directly connected to level one, particularly when we are talking about job security and workplace bullying. Without job security physical needs may not be met sufficiently. Worrying about that may contribute to sleeplessness, compounding the problem. Continuing with the above example, if the sleep deprived employee is constantly remind that his or her position could be terminated at any moment, he or she is now concerned with primarily just keeping the job, which means job performance may suffer.
We can move up to level three concerns only when needs are met at the first two levels. Here we reach out to others and build relationships, which are integral to a safe and efficient working environment. If needs are not met at this level, motivation and productivity suffer. A bully manager works by pitting people against each other, as well as making everyone in his department focus so hard on the basic needs of the first two levels that they may begin competing instead of collaborating. Here the unchecked bullying ripples out from the individual employee to the department and ultimately the company.
Level four relates to concerns about our need to feel good about ourselves and our accomplishments. We begin to really feel the negative impact of this bullying on an employees mental health. Already concerned about basic needs, and perhaps feeling a bit isolated, if the bully manager then uses public humiliation, constantly criticizes with no positive feedback, or even actively engages other employees in the bullying, this results in low self-esteem. It is here that the high turn over really begins to affect a company's bottom line. Once the employee's mental health, physical health and professional future are compromised, if the company does not address the problem, the only solution is to leave out of self-preservation. The cost of training new employees as the bully destroys his team one-by-one becomes a much bigger issue. This may also be where the costs include legal fees as every aspect of an employee's life is destroyed.
Self-Actualization is the final level. If a manager intentionally defeats his team members at every turn and an employee has no possible way not only reaching their full potential, with every single need on the Hierarchy of Needs compromised, the effects may reach out even further.
Tragically, death is one final outcome, either due to the disastrous health consequences of chronic and excessive stress, suicide or homicide .
It is imperative that when a workplace bully is identified, he or she is stopped! It is in the best interest of the employee, his or her family, the employer, and society.
Workplace Bullies-Managing or Damaging? Part 1-Recognizing Bullying