What Should Employers do to Help Employees Deal with the Psychological Effects of Workplace Bullying?


Too many people believe that bullying is something that ends with high school. Of course, the stereotypical actions of shoving another individual in a locker is not likely something that you’ll see in a professional environment. Still, there are various ways of bullying in the workplace. When that happens, employers must help victims deal with the psychological effects.

What should employers do to help employees deal with the psychological effects of workplace bullying? Employers should start by providing support for bullied employees, educate those in leadership positions, and develop a positive team environment. By making an effort in these things, employers can better help to improve the psychological health of their victimized employees.

When developing a post-bullying incident policy, it’s essential to focus on both the victim and the prevention of any further problems. This means offering therapy if necessary or medical assistance if other sicknesses result from bullying. When it comes to preventing workplace bullying, education must take precedence. By making an effort to do these things and actively working to create an atmosphere of togetherness, workplace bullying can become less frequent and less damaging. 

Examples of Workplace Bullying?

When it comes to workplace bullying, there is a wide array of actions that can fall into the category. It is not just physical harm but emotional damage as well. Some examples of workplace bullying are:

– Making threats against another person

– Being cruel and unnecessarily critical

– Sarcastic comments

– Harassment

– Stealing the work of a co-worker

While the above list is just a few possibilities, the idea is that workplace bullying is something that is recurring and makes the victim feel as though they are unable to stop it. Take sarcastic comments, for example. A single sarcastic comment might rub someone the wrong way, but it is not bullying until the action is an ongoing thing. 

To be on the receiving end of a single sarcastic comment can be irritating, but bullying happens when the comments keep coming. The offender likely ignores any requests to stop the comments and may or may not see the effect it has on the individual.

What are the Psychological Effects of Bullying?

When an individual experiences bullying, many side effects can be left in the bully’s wake. Many of those side effects are physical, but various effects change a person on a psychological level. Common problems include stress and anxiety, insomnia, and panic attacks. Other issues that may arise:

1. Undereating or overeating

2. Inability to handle social situations

3. Poor job performance

4. Depression

5. Suicidal thoughts

6. Difficulty in developing trust

Knowing the seriousness of the possible effects, employers should make it a priority to both prevent workplace bullying and to help the victims in the aftermath. Doing so will give employees a good reason to stay with the company, is sure to improve productivity, and, most importantly, is the right thing to do. Treating employees like the humans they are is the best way to ensure they are getting the proper treatment when bullying has been a part of their employment.

What can Employers do to Help with the Psychological Effects of Bullying?

Employers can do a lot to help prevent workplace bullying, especially since some people might not see their actions as bullying. While prevention methods must be communicated, it is also important that employers offer help and support to those in need of it. What can be done to help workers with their bully-induced depression or inability to trust people in the workplace? The following three items are just a few actions employers should take to help workers with psychological challenges in the wake of bullying.

Provide Support

Supporting a bullied employee is one of the most obvious ways a company can show they care about the well-being of their employees. It is also a great way to avoid further psychological issues in victims. What exactly does it mean to provide support? 

Imagine a bullied employee coming forward and being told that nothing can be done about their situation. Or perhaps they offer little to no help in finding proof of being bullied. Now, instead of being bullied, he or she knows that the bullying will continue, and no one cares. That is not something employers want to do. 

Instead, when an employee tells higher-ups about a bullying situation, they might first express sincere empathy: “I know how difficult that is. I’m so sorry that you’ve been dealing with this.” Of course, this statement can come across as fake or just a canned response, so the sincerity must come across clearly. 

Among listening and offering empathy, employers will find that offering support is often easier than previously thought. Many policies require that the offender is questioned and an investigation is done, but management must never shrug off the accusation of bullying in the workplace. 

Support exists in more than just believing the victim. It also requires action in correcting the problem or even firing the bully. Being a support system for a victim of workplace bullying also means caring for the employee after the incident has been handled. With the possible psychological effects of workplace bullying, employers must offer help in managing said effects. 

This might mean offering therapy to those suffering from anxiety and depression or space where an employee can escape the stress for several minutes. Treating the psychological problems caused by workplace bullying is something that employers should do when the prevention methods have failed. It might be the responsibility of the employer to do so more than just a nice gesture.

If any other illness or injury were to occur at work, an employee would be entitled to worker’s compensation. Given that workplace bullying is the result of an office problem, freely offering assistance is crucial to maintaining quality employees. This is the kind of support that is needed when it comes to office bullying.

Education of Leadership Team

Having a leadership team that is educated on bullying is crucial to not only avoiding the issue but understanding how best to handle it when it does arise. Although some things were mentioned in the previous section about providing support as leaders, there is much more that is necessary when it comes to the results of bullying. Here is where many employers fail: there is a focus placed on preventing bullying, but no one knows how to treat the victim when it does happen.

This is not to say that less emphasis should be placed on preventing bullying. Instead, it means that despite prevention methods and a well-communicated policy, companies must realize that bullying can still occur. Laws and policies do not stop everyone. However, a leadershipOpens in a new tab. team can be taught how to identify signs of bullying, handle victims, and what victims might be going through in the aftermath of a bully. 

In truth, there is little out there on how to handle employees that have experienced bullying. There are clear studies and proven medical diagnoses surrounding psychological effects as a result of workplace bullying. Unfortunately, a search on how to respond to those effects is one that turns up very little. This means that the best ways to handle bullied children should be altered to do the same for employees. 

Leadership should first and foremost listen. Allow the victim to tell everything that they want to say. The manager should not question the employee, tell them that the situation may have been misread, or patronize them. Instead, truly listen. Education on communication can be a great asset in handling the psychological effects of bullying in the workplace. 

It is best to keep the conversation professional. Refrain from touching, but ensure that the individual knows that they are heard and that empathy is present. 

Leaders can also confirm to the victim that the actions described are unacceptable. However, making false promises will not help with the psychological effects that the victim may face. Informing the victim that their bully will be fired immediately is often unrealistic, as the events must be investigated. Instead of promising that the bully will be fired, keep neutral without discounting the employee’s side of the story. 

A great way to learn this is to have a psychologist teach leadership teams how best to handle a sensitive situation. Courses that teach management how to communicate without placing blame is an ideal way to move forward. For example, a manager might say, “What you have described is absolutely against company policy.” This statement is neutral but also makes it clear that the victim is heard. 

Leaders will also be understanding and offer leniency in a strict work schedule. Knowing that more stress from the event can cause missed workdays, leaders should be motivated to nip any further issues in the bud. By refusing to be a cause of more stress for a victim, leaders can be a safe space. 

Ensuring that all individuals in a leadership position are educated on handling the aftermath of workplace bullying can help the victims of a bully to move on. This might mean paying for outside courses in communication and psychology or even having training in house. Dealing with the effects of workplace bullying is crucial in putting a stop to further concerns. 

Build a Positive Team Environment

The actions of a single person can damage an office built with a positive team environment. However, bullying is far less likely to occur if there is a positive team environment, but if one bully sneaks through the cracks, that positivity is one thing that can help in the bully’s wake. 

If an employee is suffering from the psychological effects of workplace bullying, there is little better than a positive support system. Friends in the workplace can be fantastic for reducing stress and anxiety.

Surrounding the bulled individual with positivity makes depression harder to set in, trust is more comfortable to develop when everyone lifts one another, and job performance is tough to let drop when teammates help pull the weight. How does a company develop such a positive environment?

Many think that the idea of a positive and uplifting work environment is impossible. While it can be difficult for some offices, many things can be done to make it possible. One of these things is an open line of communication. Positivity cannot be thrived upon if communication is closed off. Leadership should have something of an open-door policy so that employees can feel as though they can tell their managers anything that is going on.

It is also essential that employers encourage employees to have fun! A stuffy workplace is never a positive one, so employees that can have a good time together allow for a better environment. From monthly pot lucks to Friday night baseball games, teams should bond by spending time together.

By awarding employees for working hard, positivity is not only encouraged by upper management, but it is also displayed. Whether it is a small achievement that gets recognized or something big, that garners a lot of attention, showing a positive reaction for goof work is crucial to having an entire office that does the same. 

What is it about positivity that better equips employers to handle the psychological effects of workplace bullying? In truth, every work environment has a level of stress. That stress can be harder when an employee is managing the added stress of a workplace bully. It has been proven that increasing positive feelingsOpens in a new tab. in a stressful environment is a great way to decrease any unwanted effects. 

Prevention is Key

It is always ideal to not have to experience workplace bullying. There are great ways to prevent such a thing in your own office. However, while prevention is key to not having adverse psychological effects, bullying can still happen. To be prepared for those in need of help with the byproduct of bullies, employers should place focus on providing support, educating leadership, and building a positive environment. Without these three components, bullied individuals may find the psychological effects to be more challenging than it could be. 

It is always best to offer help to those in need, especially when those are your employees. 

Related Questions

Is workplace bullying common? 

More than 75% of employees have experienced workplace bullying in some form or another. 

Can bullying truly be prevented? 

Programs on anti-bullying have been proven to decrease bullying by 15%. While this is an improvement, it will take a lot of research and practice to get this number higher.

Are the effects of bullying in adulthood different from childhood bullying? 

Bullying can make a long-term impact on children – affecting them well into adulthood. Often adults are far more prepared to deal with bullies, but unfortunately, long-term effects can also make an impact on them.

Check out our other content topics:

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