The Effects of Workplace Bullying

Manager in office reprimanding employee with head in hands

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In This Article

If you're a target of bullies in the workplace, you probably start each week with a pit of anxiety in your stomach. Then, you count down the days until the weekend or next vacation. Inappropriate behavior by adult bullies may include:

  • Berating people
  • Stealing credit
  • Excluding others
  • Making snide remarks
  • Threatening others
  • Unfair criticism

The Health Risks of Bullying for the Victim

The effects of workplace bullying don't end when you leave the office. Being a victim of bullying can cause physical and psychological health problems, including:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Ulcers

Bullying Affects Job Performance

Bullied workers can't perform their jobs to the best of their ability. Performance issues include:

  • Having trouble making decisions
  • An incapacity to work or concentrate
  • A loss of self-esteem
  • Lower productivity

Bullied workers not only lose motivation, they lose time because they are preoccupied with:

  • Trying to defend themselves
  • Avoiding the bully
  • Networking for support
  • Ruminating about the situation
  • Planning how to deal with the situation

What’s more, targets of bullying feel a sense of isolation. In fact, workplace bullying can leave the victim so traumatized that they feel powerless, disoriented, confused and helpless.

Clinical Research on Bullying in the Workplace

The problem is so prevalent, you can find clinical studies on the subject. Research on bullying in the workplace quantifies the personal consequences for the victim and fiscal consequences that affect the company's bottom line.

Researchers at the University of Manitoba found workplace bullying inflicts more harm on employees than sexual harassment.

Compared to victims of sexual harassment in the workplace, bullied employees showed:

  • More job stress
  • Less commitment to the company
  • Higher levels of anxiety and anger

Researchers at the University of Helsinki Department of Public Health found non-target coworkers suffer too. Their results show victims of bullying and those who witness it are more likely to receive a prescription for psychotropic medications such as:

  • Antidepressants
  • Tranquilizers
  • Sleeping pills

Effects on the Employers of Bullies

Workplace bullying has detrimental effects on employers, not just the victim and their co-workers who witness it. In addition to disrupting the work environment and impacting worker morale it can also:

  • Reduce productivity
  • Create a hostile work environment
  • Promote absenteeism
  • Impact workers compensation claims
  • Result in costly, and possibly embarrassing legal issues​

Other costly effects on the employer include:

  • Increased use of sick leave, health care claims and staff turnover
  • Erosion of employee loyalty and commitment
  • Additional costs to recruit and train new employees
  • Poor public image and negative publicity
  • Increased risk of legal action

How Employers Can Respond to Bullying in the Workplace

It's always in your best interest to confront workplace bullying and maintain a bullying-free workplace because prevention is more cost-effective than intervention or mediation. It's also the right thing to do if care about your employees.

Employers must offer education opportunities for managers, supervisors, and other authority figures because the majority of workplace bullying comes from bullying bosses.

Strive to create a workplace environment that cultivates teamwork, cooperation, and positive interaction instead.

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