For many, the workplace has become a haven for bullies. They berate people, steal credit, exclude others, make snide remarks, threaten others and dole out unfair criticism. And, the targets of this type of harassment are suffering. Many start each week with a pit of anxiety in their stomachs and count down the days until the weekend or their next vacation. In the meantime, they also typically deal with a host of other negative effects.
Effects on Targets of Bullying
Workplace bullying can cause extensive health problems for employees including a number of physical and psychological illnesses and injuries. Although individual responses vary from person to person, people who are bullied at work may experience stress, anxiety, panic attacks and trouble sleeping. They may have higher blood pressure, ulcers and other stress-related illnesses.
There also is some evidence that bullied workers have trouble making decisions, an incapacity to work or concentrate, a loss of self-esteem and become less productive. Part of this loss of productivity is brought on by a loss of motivation, stress and health complaints, but the other part is comprised of time spent trying to defend themselves, avoiding the bully, networking for support, ruminating about the situation and planning how to deal with situation.
What’s more, targets of bullying feel a sense of isolation and may struggle with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and may even contemplate suicide. In fact, workplace bullying can leave a person so traumatized that they feel powerless, disoriented, confused and helpless. They even feel paralyzed and unable to do anything about the situation.
Furthermore, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Manitoba found that workplace bullying inflicts more harm on employees than sexual harassment. In fact, bullied employees showed more job stress, less commitment to the company and higher levels of anxiety and anger than sexually harassed employees.
Meanwhile, another study found that people who are bullied in the workplace and those who witness it, are more likely to need medication. In fact, researchers at the University of Helsinki Department of Public Health found that targets of bullying and those who witness it are more likely to be prescribed psychotropic medications such as antidepressants, tranquilizers or sleeping pills.
Effects on the Employers of Bullies
Workplace bullying also can have detrimental effects and costs for the employer. Aside from disrupting the work environment and impacting worker morale it also can reduce productivity, create a hostile work environment, promote absenteeism and impact workers compensation claims. Sometimes bullying can even result in legal issues for the company.
What’s more, the impact of bullying is not limited to the bully and the target. It also affects co-workers, clients, customers, business associates, family and friends. For instance, Canadian researchers found that employees who witness bullying are more likely to leave their jobs than those who are being victimized.
Other effects on the company 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
As a result, it is always in an organization’s best interest to confront workplace bullying and maintain a bullying-free workplace. In fact, preventing workplace bullying is much more cost effective than having to intervene or mediate during an established pattern of bullying. It’s also a good idea to train managers, supervisors and other authority figures because the majority of workplace bullying comes from bullying bosses.
Companies should strive to create an environment that cultivates teamwork, cooperation and positive interaction. Remember, if bullying exists, these other elements cannot exist. Therefore, for companies to be productive and successful, it is important that they work to eradicate bullying from the workplace.