Imagine being constantly harassed, humiliated, and intimidated by your boss or co-workers. Imagine feeling powerless, helpless, and hopeless in your work environment. Imagine having no one to turn to, no one to support you, no one to protect you.
This is what workplace bullying feels like.
Workplace bullying is a serious problem that can harm the well-being, performance, and productivity of employees. It can damage the reputation, culture, and finances of the organization and it is not something that goes away if we just give it time and look the other way.
What is Workplace Bullying?
Workplace bullying is defined as persistent and repeated mistreatment that occurs in the workplace. It can include noticeable things like verbal, physical, or emotional abuse, such as insults, threats, humiliation, exclusion, sabotage. But a lot of the time it is not very straightforward and visible to the eye. Workplace bullying can be subtle or covert, such as gaslighting, withholding information, or changing the rules without notice. When analyzing workplace bullying we often see that most of the time it involves a power imbalance, where the bully has more authority, seniority, or influence than the target.
How Does Workplace Bullying Affect Employees?
Workplace bullying is not just a minor annoyance or a harmless joke. Being in an environment where bullying is tolerated can have negative effects on the physical, mental, and emotional health of employees. And yes to all of the employees, not only the ones who are targeted. Workplace bullying can increase the risk of depression, anxiety, stress, burnout, and post-traumatic stress disorder. But it can also cause physical symptoms, such as headaches, muscle tension, sleep problems, and changes in appetite.
Moreover workplace bullying can impair the functioning and performance of employees, such as reducing their work engagement, motivation, satisfaction, and productivity. Let’s be honest, who feels like giving their best while feeling hopeless and powerless? Not to mention that workplace bullying can also affect the family and social relationships of employees, such as increasing their marital conflict, family stress, and social isolation. All of their energy will go to staying alive in the workplace and there is not much of energy left to deal with everyday life. This, in turn, makes a person even more vulnerable.
In addition to affecting employees, workplace bullying clearly affects the company as a whole. Workplace bullying can harm the reputation, culture, and finances of the organization, because employees talk about their experiences in organizations. It can lower the morale, loyalty, and trust of employees, and increase the turnover, absenteeism, and litigation costs. With the increased turnover, organizations have to invest more money into finding new employees and it can be even harder to find good new employees because no one wants to stay or work in a place they don’t feel safe in.
How Can Workplace Bullying Be Prevented?
Let’s talk about what can be done to prevent workplace bullying. It might be obvious but workplace bullying can be prevented by creating a positive and respectful work culture that values diversity, inclusion, and collaboration.
Some of the strategies that can help prevent workplace bullying are:
- Establishing clear and consistent policies and procedures that define, prohibit, and report workplace bullying. By having policies and procedures in place, employers can demonstrate their commitment to creating a safe and healthy work environment, and workers can feel more confident and supported to raise their concerns and seek help if they experience or witness workplace bullying.
- Providing regular training and education for employees and managers on how to recognize, prevent, and address workplace bullying. By doing that employers can demonstrate that they are not establishing those policies as an easy fix and they are keeping the focus on a safe work culture all the time.
- Encouraging open and honest communication and feedback among employees and managers, and resolving conflicts constructively and fairly.
- Providing support and resources for employees who experience or witness workplace bullying, such as counseling, coaching, or mediation.
- Holding the perpetrators of workplace bullying accountable for their actions, and applying appropriate disciplinary measures or sanctions. I think it is safe to say that this is the most important thing. If we don´t do anything or we just sit down to talk about the problem and then forget it, we will send out the message that bullying is okay or that it is not okay, but nothing really happens.
So to take all of it together, workplace bullying is a serious problem that can harm the well-being, performance, and productivity of employees, and the reputation, culture, and finances of the organization. By creating a positive and respectful work culture that values diversity, inclusion, and collaboration, workplace bullying can be prevented and addressed effectively.