Workplace Bullying Can Have a Serious Impact on Health
The effects of workplace bullying can be catastrophic. I regularly hear about bullying experiences from my own counselling clients and indeed have witnessed it myself in my own working life. Workplace bullying is a form of harassment, typically one that is repeated on a regular basis, carried out against a particular person and consists of behaviour done with the conscious intent of harming the target. Examples of workplace bullying include gossip, excluding someone socially, name-calling, threats, intimidation, constantly changing work guidelines, requiring more work for one person than that expected of others, making offensive jokes, setting a person up for failure, teasing, yelling or using bad language, unfairly refusing a person’s requests for leave or training, intruding on a person’s privacy or interfering with a person’s personal belongings.
Psychological Effects of Workplace Bullying
People who have been bullied in the workplace experience a wide range of problems. Many experience post traumatic stress disorder, in part because people self-identify so strongly with their work. Prolonged bullying may cause panic attacks, depression, stress breakdown, poor concentration, insecurity and compromised memory. Victims may become irritable, obsessive, hyper-vigilant or overly sensitive. They experience mood swings, be unable to make even simple decisions and lose their sense of humour. They may start to bite their nails, grind their teeth or rely more and more on substances such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol or sleeping pills.
Physical Effects of Workplace Bullying
Bullied employees experience a wide range of physical effects. The World Health Organisation ties together workplace stress, much of which is caused by bullying, to chronic fatigue syndrome. Bullying also causes stress, anxiety and a lowered resistance to such things as colds, coughs and flu. Other reported symptoms include high blood pressure, migraine headaches, pains in the back and chest, hormone disturbances, physical numbness, irritable bowel syndrome, thyroid problems, skin irritations and ulcers. A medical study at the University of Helinski linked workplace bullying to a greater risk of cardiac disease.
Additional physical signs of workplace-induced stress can include:
- shaking uncontrollably
- feeling uncoordinated
- excessive sweating
- rapid heartbeat and breathing
- chest pain
- uncontrollable crying
Workplace bullying also affects the overall health of an organisation. Dr. Charlotte Rayner, a U.K. researcher, found that 20 percent of those who witness workplace bullying look for another job and that 98 percent are distressed by it. Other effects of bullying on workplace productivity include greater absenteeism and turnover, more accidents, lower quality customer service, higher costs for employee assistance programs and decreased motivation and morale
Other potential effects for an organisation include:
- High turnover. An expensive cost for companies, since they must invest in hiring and training new employees only to lose them soon after, possibly to a competitor.
- Low productivity. In a bullying environment, employees will not be motivated to do their best and often take sick days due to stress-related illnesses.
- Lost innovations. A bullying boss is more interested in attacking and victimising rather than advancing the company. As a result, employees become less likely to generate new ideas.
Need some advice and support?
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.
Book a counselling session today!