How workplace bullying harms workers

Casual businesswoman resting head on desk

Workplace bullying is health-endangering: targets suffer from anxiety disorders, hypertension, increased risk of heart disease, digestive problems, clinical depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder-related symptoms.

Physical Harm

Stressors, aspects of the work environment and behavior of people working there, can generate stress. Stress is the biological human response. It is physiological and real, not just imagined. Low-level stress may be necessary to compel people to act. However, severe stress which prevents rational, controlled action is negative.
Physical health indicators of and problems from stress »

Mental Harm

Bullying is often called psychological harassment or violence. What makes it psychological is bullying’s impact on the person’s mental health and sense of well-being. The personalized, focused nature of the assault destabilizes and disassembles the target’s identity, ego strength, and ability to rebound from the assaults. The longer the exposure to stressors like bullying, the more severe the psychological impact. When stress goes unabated, it compromises both a target’s physical and mental health.
Mental injuries, including suicide »

Social Harm

Humans are social animals. We routinely rely on others to make us feel human and connected. Bullying disrupts groups of co-workers. Sometimes bullies play divide ‘n conquer games ordering colleagues to not help or communicate with the target. More common is the group’s tendency to informally separate themselves from the target. Resentment for exposing peers to the target’s misery evolves into estrangement and eventual abandonment. Co-workers don’t want to be near the target lest they become the next prey.

There is research showing that witnesses suffer from bullying, too. When the bully is a co-worker, the principal weapon is to withhold approval of human contact and validation. Targets begin to doubt their sanity. Family and friends remain supportive for targets longer than co-workers.

If the bullying does not stop and the target does not stop obsessing, spouses can tire of the vicarious misery and leave the emotionally draining relationship.

(from the Workplace Bullying Institute)

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