Bullying in the Workplace: Mental Health Effects

Bullying in the workplace

It’s Pink Shirt Day again and there is so much communication and awareness about bullying and its effect on the mental health of children, however bullying exists in workplaces and continues to be a key contributor to poor mental health.

Bullying in the workplace is a serious issue that can affect millions of employees every single day. It not only affects the person being bullied, but also those who witness it. Bullying can take many forms, from verbal and physical abuse to exclusion and isolation. Regardless of the form it takes, bullying in the workplace can have serious consequences for mental health.

Bullying can occur downward in an organization but it can also occur upward. Employees have just as an important role in engaging in positive and anti-bullying behaviour

Regardless of who is doing the bullying, the impact on mental health is well researched and documented. Those who are bullied often experience anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances. They may also experience feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and helplessness.

Examples of workplace bullying can include, but are not limited to:

  • Abusing or threatening another employee
  • Spreading rumours or gossiping about another employee
  • Purposely excluding an employee
  • Using aggressing or intimating behaviour or language
  • Withholding information
  • Giving impossible deadlines
  • Telling offensive / inappropriate jokes
  • Invading someone’s privacy
  • Repeated criticism of a person’s work, not provided in a constructive manner
  • Belittling an employee’s opinion
  • Gaslighting:

It is important to note that the effects of bullying in the workplace are not limited to the individual who is being bullied. Those who witness bullying can also be affected. They may feel anxious and uncomfortable, and may also experience stress and burnout. They may also be less likely to speak up or report bullying, for fear of being targeted themselves. More often than not, bullying behaviour that is witnessed by others is ignored and excused.

It is important for employers to take workplace bullying seriously and take steps to prevent it from happening. This includes creating a culture in which bullying is not tolerated and addressing any incidents of bullying that are reported. Employers can also provide resources for employees who have been affected by bullying, such as counselling and support groups. Leadership needs to stand behind their zero tolerance policy and hold each other accountable to such behaviour.

Employees who have experienced bullying in the workplace should seek help and support. This may include talking to a trusted friend or family member, seeking counselling, or reaching out to organizations that specialize in workplace bullying. It is important to remember that you are not alone, and that help is available.

Resources & Articles

Pink Shirt Day – What is it?

How Bullying Manifests at Work: https://hbr.org/2022/11/how-bullying-manifests-at-work-and-how-to-stop-it

Canadian Institute of Workplace Bullying Resources: https://instituteofworkplacebullyingresources.ca/