The Effects Of Workplace Bullying On Employees: Are you a bully or being bullied?

bullying in the workplace

You might think that bullying is confined to classrooms and playgrounds, but there is much growing evidence to suggest that it is becoming a major problem in numerous workplaces. I consider myself a strong women, but have found myself being bullied in the workplace, covertly and overtly, in recent years.

How Bullying Affects Employees.

Bullying is becoming a major problem for employees. Not only does it greatly affect the individual’s mental health if they are being bullied, but it can also have a greater impact on the entire company workforce as a whole.

Do you think that you have problems with workplace bullying in your place of work? Here are some of the issues it will cause and what you will have to deal with it.

A Lack Of Trust Between Employees

Workplace bullying can affect all of the employees in a company in various ways, but one of the major effects is a breakdown in trust. People will come to dislike the bully, and they might not trust anything they say; they may even go out of their way to not work with them again. But if people know that there is bullying occurring, but they are not proactive in preventing it, then the person being bullied might end up losing trust and respect for their co-workers.

Rumours And Gossip

You might find that rumours and gossip start to increase when there is bullying in a workplace. Some of these rumours might have even been started by the bully themselves, to try and change people’s opinions of whoever it is they are bullying. This can be bad for business, as it might make employees less productive. After all, they will be too busy gossiping to get any work done!

Misplaced Accusations

When people are worried that they are working in an environment that promotes bullying, they might be quick to accuse people. This could then end up with someone being suspended or fired even when they have not done anything wrong. The company could then be threatened by employee lawyers and could end up being taken to an employment tribunal. The bully might even make a point of accusing the bullied individual just to get one over on them.

Low Staff Morale

Ultimately, the thing that suffers most in many workplaces as a result of workplace bullying is that every member of staff begins to become unhappy in their job. And that is even if they aren’t being bullied! This is because the atmosphere in the office will quickly sour as a result of the bullying, and the environment will no longer be a nice one in which to work.

Poor Staff Retention

Once bullying occurs and the staff morale drops, a company can quickly develop a poor staff retention level. That means more and more people will leave their jobs. So, the company will need to put more time, effort, and money into its recruitment process, all things that might be better spent elsewhere.

Hopefully, you will never have to cope with any workplace bullying – as you can see, all of the effects and the fallout are difficult to deal with whether you are an employee or employer!

bullying in the workplace
bullying in the workplace

My Own Bullying Story

The worst case of bullying I have ever experienced was recently with a family owned exhibition display company. I did some beautiful work for this employer. Everything seemed fine until I signed the contract and basically the facade fell away and I realised I was working for a monster. This boss would pick on a different person each week, and belittle them in front of everyone in the weekly WIP meetings. every Monday (so not only were we dealing with Monday-itis we were praying we wouldn’t be picked on). I was amazed that these people didn’t react, and no one came to their aid. It was as though they all had Stockholm Syndrome or had drunk some kind of cool aid. They just shrugged and said that she was just “like that” and I needed to “grow a thicker skin”.  I had a fellow co-worker who was 20 years my junior, who I discovered would report my day to day activities to my boss, which was weird, but I wasn’t doing anything wrong so I let it slide. One day I discovered that the company website had been hacked, there was a whole heap of nasty content on the server, so I went to my boss and let her know. She said that I’d put it there to make myself look important. Crazy right? I cleaned off what I could and moved on, putting her comments down to having a bad day.

I put together a social media strategy for the company as she’d asked me to , and in the presentation, she basically yelled at me in the meeting on front of three other people. Her arguement was that her company had done fine for 20 years and didn’t need social media. I think she was scared. She said she didn’t want linked in because people would steal her staff.  She further added that show casing the work would lead to competitors copying their work and stealing the clients.

Anyway, she told me to do some posts and implement some of it and then later told me to delete it. I added the site to Linked In and to Google maps so clients could find the location and phone number. Almost immediately someone left a negative review on Google saying that the boss “has mental health issues and treated her staff horribly”. She called a staff meeting and proceeded to scream at me for an hour in front of all the other staff that I was destroying her reputation, and that I’d written the review myself. Why on earth would I do this? Ironically she did have mental health issues and did treat her staff horribly. At the end of the hour I began to hyperventilate and was getting chest pains. I tried not to cry but said I needed to leave the room. She called me weak and pathetic.

I went upstairs where a couple of the staff tried to comfort me but when she came up they scattered. I decided to leave for the day. The next day she simply ignored me, but I spoke with HR and said I would stay as long as I could be reassured that this would never happen again. Well…the next day I was called into her office and told to resign. Basically she had no grounds to fire me, but she wanted me gone as I think she was embarrassed and I was a reminder of her paranoid outburst. I resigned, but she wouldn’t allow me to sign out of my Linked In or Facebook account on the computer I’d been using.

On the following Saturday night at midnight, after I left on the Friday, someone, on her company’s IP address, deleted my Linked in information, making my name Oo and a farmer  in mid-west USA. All my endorsements, history and portfolio was deleted. Linked In sent me the history, and I know it was her doing, so I sent a letter requesting her to keep away from me and my social media accounts. I got a huge barrage of accusations from her lawyers, designed to scare me, so I just blocked her and her tech savvy, much younger husband. I told the recruitment company and she is now on a blacklist of employers with 90% of Sydney’s recruiters, but there are still people there that are lovely and I care about, who are stuck due to visa restriction or financial over commitment. I have later heard that I got off lightly, and there are people to whom she caused mental breakdowns. I did report her to the Safework NSW and the State Ombudsman’s Office of NSW asking that she be held accountable and put in place an anti-bullying program. Being a family owned company she decided to get rid of her HR manager, as she didn’t want compliance issues. I wish her clients knew what she was like. I still get nightmares and still get anxious when dealing with people like her.

I’d like to say that this is an isolated case, but sadly it isn’t. Corporate culture is rife with covert and overt bullying, and it’s time we stopped it. The trouble is the bullies are often untouchable, managers, owners and people in positions of power, so if we complain we end up unemployed. This is one of the main reasons I work for myself. I cannot bear another bully in my life, so I work for myself and if a client is a bully I don’t work for them. I am never dependent on one client. I know it isn’t a pretty ending, and I wish I could offer a solution but mine is to make my own future and environment and have my own dreams and aspirations. I was bullied as a teenager and have a zero tolerance policy now.

How to Deal With Workplace Bullying

Here’s some tips for dealing with bullies…

Immediate emotional support (from Safework NSW)

If you need emotional support, the following services may help:

  • Lifeline on 13 11 14 – 24-hour counselling service providing emotional support in times of crisis
  • Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511 – 24-hour support service across NSW that can connect you with a mental health professional
  • Headspace on (02) 9114 4100 – a national youth mental health foundation that helps young people between 12 and 25 who are going through a tough time.

Fair Work NSW – State Ombudsman’s Office

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