What is workplace bullying?

Your manager humiliates you at a meeting in front of your team. Your co-worker gossips and spreads rumours about you. A colleague deliberately withholds information you need to do your job properly.

Your emails to a co-worker requesting advice or support are never answered. These are all types of workplace bullying. And it’s not just the odd person here and there who is affected by workplace bullying. Workplace surveys confirm that 70-80% of employees report they have experienced bullying at work.

What is the impact of workplace bullying?

The longer the bullying goes on, the more severe the impact on a person’s psychological well-being. Types of psychological and emotional injuries caused by bullying in the workplace include:
• anxiety
• panic attacks
• depression
• shame
• disturbed sleep leading to fatigue
• low self-confidence
If a person is continually exposed to these conditions it can result in severe psychological distress. This can lead to increased sick or stress leave, incapacity to work effectively, and strained relationships with others in the workplace.

Four things you must remember if you’re being bullied:

1. You didn’t cause the bullying. Despite what it feels like, the bullying is not about you. It’s more about another person wanting to have power and control over you. No matter how hard you try to make sure you say or do the right thing, the bully will still find a reason to bully you.

2. You can’t control the bully. Focus on what you can control which is your own responses and the choices you make in dealing with the bully. Try to avoid getting into verbal arguments, stick to discussing the facts, and try to appear like you are in control of your emotions (even if that’s not how you feel on the inside).

3. Don’t define yourself by the bully. Remind yourself regularly that you are still a valuable and worthwhile person despite how you are being treated by the bully. Bullies often target the people they feel most threatened by in order to reduce your success in case you are more successful than them. Each day recall three things that have gone well for you at work and how you contributed towards that outcome. Use these examples to define yourself.

4. You don’t deserve this. Nobody deserves to be treated in a way that is disrespectful, unfair or abusive. Try to take whatever action you can in your workplace to address this situation. Remaining silent just gives the bully power to keep doing what they do. Options to try are reporting the bullying, or being assertive and setting boundaries with the bully. If you don’t feel that your workplace is supporting you to deal with the bullying you may start to consider other job options for the sake of your own psychological well-being.

If you need help to deal with workplace bullying, you’re not alone. Contact Ahead Psychology on (07) 3352 3577 or use our online Request a Booking form and get the support you need to help recover and move on from the negative effects of workplace bullying.