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Bullying: The Imbalance of Power in The Workplace

By:   •  February 19, 2016  •  Research Paper  •  2,818 Words (12 Pages)  •  2,913 Views

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PROBLEM         4


Psychological Effects of Workplace Bullying         5

Physical Effects of Workplace Bullying         6

The Negative Impact of Bullying on a Company         6


WORKS CITED          8


1 Bullying: Other Negative Behaviours         4

2 A Schema of Bullying at Work         5

Executive Summary


Workplace bullying is not a new phenomenon, but it is an existing issue that needs to be addressed more in society today. Bullying, in general has most often been regarded as a form of psychological rather than physical harassment, however that is not always the case as bullying can also do a lot of external damage to victims, bystanders and to a company’s overall reputation. Therefore, the purpose of this report is to discuss the many ways workplace bullying affects an individual (psychologically and physically), the negative impact it can have on a business, and what future action needs to be taken to solve this injustice.


There are many different definitions of workplace bullying, but in general it is a behaviour where a worker attempts to assert psychological control through the humiliation and harassment of another (McKay et al. 79). It does not necessarily have to be between coworkers because bullying can also occur between managers and subordinates. Statistics have shown that workplace bullying in Canada is three to four times more prevalent than sexual harassment or racial discrimination, and in fact 40per cent of Canadians have experienced repeated acts of bullying on the job (CBC News). First, this report concentrates on the psychological effects of workplace bullying and addresses illnesses or injuries such as debilitating anxiety, panic attacks and clinical depression. It focuses on how mental health harm is mostly from the effort of trying to defend oneself, avoiding the bully, looking for support or just constantly thinking about the situation and how to deal with it. In fact, the mental effects of workplace bullying are so bad that in an online survey on the ‘The toll of workplace bullying on employee health’, 71% of the 516 respondents reported having been treated by a doctor for work-related health symptoms (Farmer 198). Next, the report discusses the wide range of physical effects of bullying such as stress, anxiety and lower resistance to flu, cold or fever. The symptoms can be mild from high blood pressure and constant headaches to extreme such as thyroid problems and other life threatening cardiac conditions. For example, a study looked at 3,100 men over a 10 year period in typical work settings and found that employees who were bullied by managers were 60% more likely to suffer a heart attack or other life threatening cardiac condition (Einarsen et al. 313).  Last, the report talks about how the behavioural effects of workplace bullying have a negative impact on a company’s reputation, looking at issues such as sickness absenteeism, turnover costs, bad productivity and performance, loss of public goodwill etc. These issues are so serious that studies have shown an increase in the turnover rate which is about 25% now. Of those experiencing bullying, over 30% intend to leave the company they work for, 38% leave their job voluntarily and about 44% are terminated using employer controlled methods (McKay et al. 82).


Hence, workplace bullying is a very important issue when it comes to the safety of workers and this report focuses on three main topics that are: The psychological effects of bullying, its long-term physical consequences and the negative impact it has on the overall health of an organization. Also, the report provides solutions to how this problem can be addressed and what victims and organizations have to do in order to stop this form of incivility. The solutions vary from victims confronting the bully and seeking help from informal complaints systems to organizations developing a violence prevention plan regarding bullying and harassment. Furthermore, the report talks about how help from people outside the organization such as psychologists and occupational health doctors can also prove to helpful for victims of harassment at work.


Workplace bullying, a form of interpersonal aggression is a serious problem that should be getting increased attention from researchers, employers and health/safety professionals as it can profoundly affect a person’s health in a negative way. Usually, workplace bullying is defined as hostility that is deliberate, repeated and intended to cause harm to one or more individuals (Farmer 196). It is usually driven by the perpetrator’s need to demonstrate power and control another individual through humiliation or harassment. Not only does it have serious detrimental outcomes for the victim, but its negative effects can also harm workplace colleagues and the company itself. The persistent and frequent acts of bullying have become such a huge issue today that it is estimated that up to 40% of Canadians have experienced workplace bullying. In fact, a recent study estimates that bullying in Canada is three to four times more prevalent than sexual harassment or racial discrimination, which proves how real and prominent this issue has become in our society (CBC News). Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that majority of employees, at some time in their career, will be exposed to bullying, either as a victim or as a bystander/witness.

Usually bullying is often more psychological than physical harm and this is why it can be sometimes hard to recognize. Gossiping, excluding people by not talking to them and withholding crucial information are just some negative acts of bullying and because these acts are usually subtle than direct, and verbal than physical, it is difficult to accuse someone of bullying (Rayner et al. 9). Nevertheless, these acts and others mentioned in Figure 1.1 are forms of bullying that threaten employee happiness, the overall health of the individual and the workplace structure.

Figure 1.1: Other Negative Behaviours of bullying

  • Having your opinions and views ignored
  • Abusive or intimidatory written communication, including via electronic mail
  • Given tasks with unreasonable or impossible targets or deadlines
  • Giving credit of your initiatives and achievements to others
  • Personal attacks or attacks on your private life by ridicule or insulting remarks
  • Isolating, shunning and deliberately excluding from general or specific activities
  • Verbal threats where you are criticised, yelled at or humiliated in public
  • Being ordered to do work way below your competence
  • Constant change of objectives and goals regarding your line of work
  • Having key areas of responsibility removed or replaced with unpleasant tasks
  • Physical violence, or threats of such violence

Sources: (Farmer 197), (Canadian Centre) and (Rayner et al. 39)

Hence, the next three paragraphs will focus on how these negative acts affect an individual’s mental and physical health, and the consequences bullying has on a company’s reputation. Also, the conclusions/recommendations section will provide useful information on future action steps that victims and organizations should take against this social injustice which affects millions worldwide.

Discussion of Findings

Psychological Effects of Workplace Bullying

People who have been bullied in the workplace experience a wide range of psychological effects. Because people self identify so strongly with their work, many experience shock, anger and feelings of frustration at first (McKay et al. 87). Later, these feelings escalate and victims start experiencing fear, anxiety, depression or post traumatic stress disorder. The statistics show the increasing psychological injuries where debilitating anxiety is experienced the most at 80%, panic attacks at 52%, clinical depression at 49%, Post-traumatic stress from inflicted abuse at 30% and constant shame (result of humiliation by the bully), guilt and overwhelming sense of injustice (Mental Health Harm). The high stress levels cause frequent breakdowns where the victim cannot fully concentrate on his/her work and starts finding ways to flee the tortuous workplace. Figure 1.2 works from left to right and is a prime example of how repeated negative acts of bullying over a period of time can deteriorate a person psychologically. It usually starts from an expected response of being upset by the actions of others to a full breakdown, where the unabated, repeated negative acts push the victim into feeling abused or severely bullied (Rayner et al. 10).


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