The Effects on Mind & Body of Bullying in the Workplace

The boss humiliates you in a meeting before your co-workers. Your secretary gossips about you in the lunchroom spreading rumors about calls you receive. Your co-worker deliberately withholds crucial information that you needed to successfully complete a project. All of these are forms of workplace bullying, which is itself one of several types of workplace violence. And it's not just you. The International Labor Organization says that the effects of bullying in the workplace have become so widespread that bullying represents the greatest threat to success in the workplace in the new millennium, as reported by

Definition of Workplace Bullying

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 behavior 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 profanities, unfairly refusing a person's requests for leave or training, intruding on a person's privacy or interfering with a person's personal belongings.

Mental Effects

People who have been bullied in the workplace experience a wide range of problems. Impacts of bullying at work can include 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, indecision or a loss of humor, and may begin biting their nails, grinding their teeth or a relying on such substances as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol or sleeping aids.

Physical Effects

Bullied employees experience a wide range of physical effects. Reach Creator says that workplace stress, much of which is caused by bullying, is linked chronic fatigue syndrome. Bullying also causes stress, anxiety and a lowered resistance to such things as colds, coughs, flue and fever. 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. The impact of workplace bullying includes a greater risk of cardiac disease. Researchers are exploring whether there is an indirect link between bullying and such diseases as asthma, allergies, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and some forms of cancer.

Workplace Productivity Effects

Workplace bullying has effects on those who witness it as well as those who experience it, affecting the overall health of an organization, as reported by the BBC. Victims spend much of their time trying to gain support and defend themselves from the bullying, time that would otherwise be spent working. Those who witness workplace bullying may look for another job that offers a better working environment. Other effects of bullying on the workplace include greater absenteeism and turnover, more accidents, lower quality customer service, higher costs for employee assistance programs and decreased motivation and morale.