Marjan Houshmand and colleagues at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver surveyed 357 nurses in 41 hospital units.
The analysis of the survey showed targets of bullying were more likely to be thinking of leaving their employers than were workers who hadn't witnessed bullying.
The study, published in the journal Human Relations, found the positive relationship between work unit-level bullying and turnover intentions is stronger for those who rarely experienced direct bullying compared with those who are bullied often.
The researchers also used statistical analysis to test the relationship between turnover intention and whether an individual was experiencing bullying directly.
"Of particular note is the fact that we could predict turnover intentions as effectively either by whether someone was the direct target of bullying, or by how much an environment was characterized by bullying," Houshmand said in a statement. "We tend to assume that direct, personal experiences should be more influential upon employees than indirect experiences only witnessed or heard about in a second-hand fashion. Yet our study identifies a case where direct and indirect experiences have a similarly strong relationship to turnover intentions."
Turnover hurts the bottom line because researchers estimate that the cost of replacing a worker who has quit is double the yearly salary of the worker.