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Workplace Bullying: Signs, Risks, and Prevention

Updated on August 27, 2018
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Fredda Branyon has dedicated her life to the advancement of complementary medicine.


A study from the University of Phoenix concludes that workplace bullying affects 75 percent of employees in the United States. Conversely, a 2007 Zogby International survey found that approximately 54 million people had experienced some form of harassment at their jobs. Given its prevalence, it has never been more crucial for both employers and employees to recognize signs of bullying.

Am I being bullied?

There is a distinct line between management and bullying. Objective feedback is synonymous with constructive criticism, which is normal and often disassociated with bullying. Bullying in the workplace is present when a colleague or supervisor deliberately treats a co-worker unreasonably, which can inflict physical or mental harm to the victim.

If the following situations are happening to you, chances are you are a victim of bullying in the workplace:

  • Frequent verbal abuse, including getting yelled at, cursed, or insulted

  • Experiencing intentional sabotage, such as delaying vacation requests or assigning tasks impossible for you to accomplish

  • Having false stories about you spread around the office

  • Co-workers and managers intentionally ignoring you

  • Getting excessive or unfair punishments

  • Colleagues always taking credit for your accomplishments

  • Receiving offensive or inappropriate jokes at your expense

  • Physical abuse, such as violent and sexual advances

Workplace bullying can have severe effects on employees, such as:

  • Stress
  • Lowered self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulties interacting or maintaining social lives due to high stress at work
  • Absenteeism and low productivity
  • Post-traumatic stress disorde

How does bullying impact a business?

Workplace bullying is also bad for business. Some ways that companies suffer due to bullying include:

  • High turnover

  • Low productivity

  • Reduced innovations

  • Difficulty hiring quality employees as word spreads that the company has a hostile or unjust work environment

How do I stop my workplace bullies?

If you are unfortunately on the receiving end of bullying, firmly but calmly tell the aggressor to stop. If the situation persists or worsens, escalate the issue to your direct supervisor, human resource team, or anyone with authority to help in mediation. It is also important to start the discussion in a calm or collected manner.

If all else fails, leaving the company may be one of your best responses to abusive behavior in the workplace, especially if your mental and physical being is at stake.

How can a company prevent bullying in the workplace?

On the part of the company, eliminating workplace harassment or bullying begins with the commitment to instill company policies to correct the problem. All organizations should make a conscious effort to maintain diligence over the monitoring of abusive behavior.

An anti-bullying policy will help make victims feel safe, and any potential bullies will think twice before showing abusive behavior in the office. Make it loud and clear that human resources will not tolerate such unacceptable behavior.

The Bottom Line

Bullying is never worth putting an employee's mental and physical health at risk. A harmonious workplace will perpetually serve the company better, even if that means letting go of bullies who are strong performers.

© 2018 Fredda Branyon


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