Prevent Bullying in the Workplace

October is National Bullying Prevention month, and though we often attribute bullying to playground rivalries, it’s becoming increasingly common in the lives of adults in the workplace.

Millions of Americans, even those in white collar jobs, say they feel anxiety and outright fear of bosses and colleagues due to adult bullying. According to a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adult bullying affects an estimated 12 million Americans in the workplace , with women being affected nearly three times more than men.

The term “workplace bullying” encompasses a variety of situations, but generally refers to repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more people that can include verbal abuse, undermining, offensive nonverbal behaviors, humiliation, threats, or interfering with someone’s ability to get work done. While it’s becoming increasingly obvious workplace bullying is a problem, it’s not entirely clear why bullying is on the rise.  Theorists suggest that cutthroat corporate culture may contribute, as well as economic instability and financial stress- but no definitive factor has arisen.

Over the last few decades, the number of people who’ve admitted to being the target of workplace bullying has increased drastically. In 2011, half of employees in one survey said they were treated rudely at least once a week, an increase of 25% from 1998. (Recent research also suggests that physically unattractive people are more likely to be bullied at the office.)

Workplace bullying has clearly negative consequences for the target as well as the company itself. Employees who are being bullied and undermined at work are more likely to be stressed and to miss work for health reasons. Many people say the experience of being bullied has caused them to develop health issues such as anxiety and depression. Some signs of bullying include:

  • Nightly anxiety when thinking about the next day of work
  • Frustration and confusion from family members who believe you are obsessing over work
  • High blood pressure as a result of stress levels, increased incidence of autoimmune inflammatory conditions
  • Shame and fear prevents you from telling others about peer & manager behavior affecting you
  • Paid time off is consistently used for “mental health breaks”
  • Activities you once enjoyed are no longer enjoyable
  • Feelings of guilt associated with the workplace cruelty
  • Fear of taking normal liberties at work, ie. Using vacation time, going to lunch, etc.
  • Feelings of misery, anxiety, depression, lethargy, fear, and anger when thinking about  work situations

Due to recent research on workplace bullying, efforts to eradicate it from the workplace include legislation similar to sexual harassment laws. Additionally, counselors across the nation are becoming more versed in the effects and methods of treating individuals who have experience workplace bullying.  At Great Lakes Psychology Group, we take a comprehensive approach to treating the effects of bullying, as well as armed the targeted individual with the tools they need to face another workday.  Call 800-693-1916 to schedule an appointment with one of our counselors to begin recovering from bullying in the workplace.