The authors say the findings show that workplace bullying can be more corrosive and costly than believed.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia looked at surveys of 357 nurses, working from previous findings that bullying was rife in the health care industry.
They were questioned to assess the level of bullying in each unit, as well as individual experience, reports journal Human Relations.
The researchers captured respondents’ intentions to quit their jobs in units where bullying was pervasive, asking them to rate their positive or negative reactions toward statements such as “If I had a chance, I would change to some other organisation”.
They found that all respondents who experienced bullying, either directly or indirectly, reported a greater desire to quit their jobs than those who did not. However, the results showed that people who experienced it as bystanders in their units or with less frequency reported wanting to quit in even greater numbers.
Professor Sandra Robinson said: “We tend to assume that people experiencing bullying bear the full brunt.
“However, our findings show that people experience a moral indignation when others are bullied that can make them want to leave in protest.”