Effects on employees of work place bullying:

As managers our roles can be very complex. At one level we are there to support individuals in their work but on the other hand we must also try to get the best out of people. Our employee being bullied can affect productivity and can worry and concern us for them personally. In this post we want to look at the impact that work place bullying can have on employees within a work team.

In our previous post we looked at strategies managers can implement if a case of bullying is confirmed and brought to their attention: https://abatecounselling.ie/2018/01/18/3-strategies-manager-deal-stop-workplace-bullying-no-3-hardest/. We also looked at how to challenge this and even how to challenge ourselves if we might be the problem. However, bullying may never come to our attention unless we are trained to look for the tell-tale signs.

Check with those on the team at risk of bullying already, those not gelling in well and those that seem shy. Sudden changes in an employee’s productivity, demeanour, physical appearance or general happiness levels in work may also indicate bullying. Everyone is unique and affected differently so, in this post we want to give managers some of the effects bullying may have on their employees.

How this can make a person feel:

A victim of bullying may feel an entire spectrum of emotions. Feeling trapped, angry, downbeat, sad, set upon and that the situation is not fair are very common. For many, bullying can come as a complete shock and may be the first time in their lives this has happened. In this situation persons may feel like giving the bully the benefit of the doubt, waiting to see if they’ll change the behaviour. This type of person is more likely to eventually stand up to the bully or bring forward grievances.

For others, bullying can fit in with pre-existing negative ideas that they already have about themselves. If this is not their first time to be bullied they may even collude with the bully, go along with it for the sake of being nice or just accept it as a part of life. These victims can be conditioned by bullying to believe they are worthless, unlovable, unproductive and stupid. This has a devastating effect on self-esteem and functioning not just in work but in all aspects of their lives. These victims may be the hardest to reach.

The known effects of bullying:

Typically, the effects of work place bullying do not leave a person when they leave the office. Being a victim of bullying can cause physical and psychological health problems, including:

Stress – Can be like feeling they need to get more done or face the wrath of the bully, especially if they are the boss. If the bully is not a boss general stress can occur when faced with them, ramping up the physical symptoms of stress. Stress can be viewed as the body constantly being on high alert and under pressure. With that comes high blood pressure, a red face in extreme examples, tension in the body (for example: back, neck, face), headaches, needing to use the bathroom frequently.

Psychologically this can manifest in feeling overwhelmed, agitated or easily pushed over the edge and ultimately burnt out or an unable to function in work.

Anxiety – Is very similar to stress in many ways in terms of physical symptomology. however, anxiety can be experienced more as an impending sense of doom, or fear of being exposed/making a mistake. This can be more paralysing than stress, which can be more like a pressure to act. Many bullying victims that we see are suffers of anxiety stemming from the situation. Typically, they report anxiety the night before work and even on the way into work.

This can manifest itself in avoiding responsibility and procrastinating while fearing the worst, also predicting future bullying. It can be so bad that they cannot face work or its responsibilities.

Panic attacks – Are events of extreme anxiety and panic triggered by certain stimuli, people or scenarios. Suffers typically think something else seriously wrong is happening with their health and misinterpret the rising arousal. People often need to rush out meetings or situations that trigger them in order to self sooth and regulate.

Panic attacks can be psychologically crippling as the sufferer worries about them happening again and may doubt themselves severely.

Trouble sleeping –  this can be part and parcel of any of the above. The mind racing, looking for solutions to manage the bullying can lead to sleepless nights. When our bodies are geared for threat sleep can be one of the first things to be affected. Imagine sleeping in a trench during a war, the slightest noise would wake a person to deal with danger. The central nervous system of a bullied person stressed or anxious works the same way.

Bullying victims often report waking several times a night, struggling to get back to sleep and struggling to switch off their thinking from this.

Impact on productivity:

As could be imagined, all of the above can impact employee’s ability to make work decisions, concentrate on work or be fully present. They may be distracted in work by trying to defend themselves, avoiding situations with the bully, worrying how to deal with the situation or networking for support. It may ultimately lead to individuals looking to leave the company or them not coming in for work as regularly.

Managers role:

A manager needs to be a role model within a company and needs to keep an eye out for the signs of bullying and harassment in the work place. Knowing some of these signs, and keeping the focus on what may be going on underneath the surface we can help people bring these issues forward.

Team members with good relationships to management can be checked in with to find out what kind of workplace culture exists when managers are not around. Again as per last weeks post, we can’t afford to leave bullies go unchallenged.

Suffering through ongoing bullying, or even going through a grievance procedure can be an incredibly stressful time for employees. At Abate Counselling and EAP we have helped the staff of many companies go through similar events.

We provide pay per use employee assistance support in the form or short-term counselling for the employees of companies throughout Ireland and can be contacted on 1800 222 833 or through info@abatecounselling.com.

Wishing all the mangers, bosses and employees out there the best in tackling bullying.

Team Abate Counselling and EAP.

A companies’ greatest asset is its employees, we’re the insurance.