Workplace bullying is real, and it’s becoming a menace in the United States and worldwide. Research shows that nearly 30% of the American workforce experience direct workplace bullying, while another 19% have witnessed it.
Workplace bullying can take many forms and is generally intentional. It can create a hostile work environment for individuals, leading to mental and psychological torment for victims. Even worse, workplace bullying can negatively affect the organization. This post details everything you need to know about workplace bullying, including what it is, its causes, its impacts on individuals and organizations, how firms and employees can address it, and more. Feel free to jump ahead!
What is workplace bullying?
Bullying in the workplace is often misjudged for physical assault. But workplace bullying can take many different forms. In fact, it can be thought of as a more mental type of anguish than it is physical. This makes it hard to recognize it straight away. In simple terms, workplace bullying is considered an intentional and persistent series of actions that break down employees’ self-esteem. Although this traditionally happened face- to-face, advancements in technology mean that communication channels can be used to bully co-workers.
What constitutes workplace bullying?
Here are a few forms of workplace bullying:
- Any treatment that pressures, provokes, intimidates, or frightens an employee can be
regarded as workplace bullying. In most cases, bullying in the workplace is repetitive and leads to devastating impacts.
- Unwelcomed sexual advances
- Spreading rumors
- Verbal insults
- Being overly critical
- Threats related to job security
- Intentionally preventing an employee’s career advancement
What causes bullying in the workplace?
Here are three main causes of bullying in the workplace.
1. Workplace bullying and the economy
The list is long. Anything done to an employee that affects their self-worth can be added to this list. If you’ve experienced workplace bullying, you may have wondered, “why me?” Well, several theories would explain why you could be the center of bullying in the workplace. The theories can be considered in terms of individuals’ characteristics and aspects of the environment and the economy.
Research shows a very strong correlation between the economy’s strength and the level of bullying in the workplace. Uncertainties created by economic breakdown can be a catalyst for office harassment as financial pressures pile down the employees. With a recession, job security becomes an issue, resulting in competitiveness among employees. In turn, managers/employees assert dominance over their subordinates/colleagues, which may come in the form of bullying. In short, the ‘survival for the fittest’ scenario in the employment market during an economic crisis can lead to office harassment.
Workplace bullying and the environment
Workplace bullying and individuals’ characteristics
Another theory argues that organizational culture created by employers creates workplace bullying. A competitive environment comprised of ambitious staff can lead to hostility, as workers start to bully others to ‘progress’ or survive. Bullying in the workplace is also associated with people’s characteristics, including personality, social skills, childhood experience, unresolved conflicts, etc. A bully can be a man or a woman, although men (67%) are more likely to be bullies than women. Now that you know why you may be a target of workplace bullying, let’s look at the cost of this menace to individuals and the organization.
The cost of workplace bullying
Here is how bullying in the workplace affects firms and individuals’ health.
Hazards to health
Implications for organizations
Named the most expensive things globally – the Yacht History Supreme, Antilia, the 1963 Ferrari GTO, etc. Yes, workplace bullying is more expensive than several of these properties. Specifically, workplace bullying affects employees’ health, which, in turn, impacts the organization.
Workplace bullying is a form of harassment, and as is with all forms of harassment, there are repercussions. Here are the mental and physical effects of bullying on employees. Mental effects: Individuals that have been bullied experience a wide range of mental health issues. Research shows a strong correlation between workplace bullying and increased stress and mental distress (which may extend for up to two years). Even worse, harassment in the workplace has been associated with poor sleep quality, mood swings, indecision, etc.
Physical effects: In addition to psychological consequences, bullied workers experience many physical effects. For instance, bullying leads to chronic fatigue syndrome, neck pains, fibromyalgia, cardiovascular problems, and more. These are some of the mental and physical effects of workplace bullying. In extreme cases, workplace bullying can lead to deaths through suicide.
Bullying in the workplace affects people experiencing and witnessing it, impacting the organization’s overall health. Victims spend a significant percentage of their time defending themselves from the bullies, reducing their overall productivity. Also, stress and anxiety caused by workplace bullying increase employee turnover rate, affecting the overall workplace productivity. Bullying in the workplace causes depression, stress, and anxiety, which affects the global economy. According to WHO, stress, depression, and anxiety costs the world’s economy US$1 trillion.
Some other effects of workplace bullying include:
- Reputation damage
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