Sandra Robinson, Ph.D., a professor at the University and co-author of the study stated:
“Our findings show that people across an organization experience a moral indignation when others are bullied that can make them want to leave in protest.”
This idea was echoed in a number of related articles.
Whilst it sounds reasonable, I have to completely disagree.
Moral indignation doesn’t make people want to quit. If it was moral indignation then people would speak up, confront that boss and defend that worker. To quit, on the other hand, is to throw your hands up and surrender. Wanting to leave doesn’t suggest protest, but suggests that people would rather seek work elsewhere than speak up on your behalf.
People rarely quit their jobs in protest over a colleague’s predicament because most of the time we realise the futility of doing so and the inordinate cost to ourselves. Do you remember that scene in Jerry Maguire when Jerry persuades Dorothy Boyd to walk out with him after he’s sacked for sharing his caring Mission Statement with his colleagues? Jerry and Dorothy make their exit past employees frozen in shock but, the minute they’re out the door, the workforce jumps back to work as if the two had never existed. Dorothy’s support of Jerry is relevant for all of 30 seconds. After that, nobody cared. And the same is true in real life.
If people want to quit, it’s far more likely to be because watching bullying reminds we have to toe the line and keep our mouths shut or lose our job. We know the right thing to do and yet we have to think of ourselves. Every day we’re reminded that there’s a price to our job. Every day, we’re faced with a tough choice. It’s no longer simply about doing a job well. It’s also about whether we look the other way if we see things that are unfair. Watching someone else bullied makes us feel bad for the other person, but it also makes us feel bad about ourselves every minute we don’t help - and it’s the feeling bad about ourselves element that make people want to escape. It’s eight hours of uncomfortable – five days a week.
Sadly, if you’re the victim of bullying and your colleagues are looking the other way or quietly applying for other jobs then, as anyone who’s been through it knows, you’ve haven’t got the moral support of the workforce. Quite the contrary; you’re entirely on your own.
That’s why it’s best to take these surveys with a pinch of salt and also why it’s best to seek solidarity outside the workplace – with others who’ve been there too.
Very best wishes