Workplace Bullying and its Effect On Productivity

Bullying has always been a taboo concept in the workplace. Oftentimes, it starts as simple teasing which eventually leads to a collective form of degrading a co-worker. Throughout this article, we will be giving tips on how to resolve such issues through proactive resolutions. In doing so, each workplace will have more harmonious relationships and better working synergies.

How does bullying in the workplace affect someone’s productivity? It can have various repercussions on the different aspects of a victim’s life that are directly related to their productivity. Because the victims are burdened with the bullying, their physical, mental and emotional states are heavily affected, they tend to not concentrate on and prioritize their work.

Workplace bullyingOpens in a new tab. has been very prominent especially in companies or businesses that try to maintain a certain brand. It often occurs to newcomers in the workplace or someone who doesn’t vibe well with the majority of the team. Unlike in a school setting, it is not that common for victims to call-out to their bullies for this leads to more teasing and bullying afterward.

Bullying in the workplace may also be caused by previous bullying cases that may have negatively influenced someone to be the same. Oftentimes, bullies who do not start off as bullies were affected by a previous case wherein they were the victim. Because of the turnout of events, these people adapt to such problematic behaviors and take out their revenge on other people—those whom they think are lesser than them, the weak, and those who have less to no power in the institution they both belong in.

This behavior can lead to abusive relationships, public humiliation, and continuous intimidation for a bully to get what he or she wants from the target. Besides bullying alone, we have written a detailed article on everything you need to know about workplace intimidationOpens in a new tab. as well. 

How Exactly Does Workplace Bullying Affect Productivity?

There are different forms of workplace bullying—physical, mental, verbal. These are all done repetitively to create a degrading environment for a person or group of people. This behavior often occurs when someone in the workplace acts superior or is favored by a colleague of greater authority; take for example a supervisor, the manager, the vice president. When such confidence is acquired, there is a tendency to come off as bossy or arrogant especially when certain insecurities take place. 

Sadly, the rate of workplace bullying has been continually increasing through the years in different parts of the world. But luckily, many non-government organizations and affiliations have moved forward in addressing such concerns through different public statements, advocacy campaigns, and other initiatives to further assist those who are in need of help.

As workplace bullying is common in a lot of environments worldwide, those who are greatly affected are the victims. The longer victims tolerate and allow such events to happen, the lower their productivity rate becomes. Workplace bullying is also considered harassment which causes a lot of mental, physical, and psychological effects on a person. 

It is definitely not an easy occurrence to deal with as it happens repetitively with much worse effects. As various encounters occur consecutively, the victim suffers and this can develop into other problems which may be harder to resolve. What aspects are affected then?

Physical Effects 

The physical effects of workplace bullying can be devastating. Even if the bully does not physically harm the victim, the effects on the victim’s productivity can lead to physical deficiencies. 

A studyOpens in a new tab. has proven that workplace bullying affects the physical well-being of a person. How frequently a person is bullied is linked to the amount of sleep and rest that he or she is able to get. With so much going on in the person’s brain, they are not able to rest well due to the many thoughts circulating inside them. 

As victims try to absorb all the events happening to them, it is very common for them to have an existential crisis. This leads to lack of sleep and focus, which in the long run affects their performance in the office. In extreme cases, if not given immediate counseling or help, the victim may also resort to self-harm which has far more concerning effects and outcomes not just to the victim but even to other people involved. 

Psychological Effects

It’s not only the victim’s physical well-being that is harmed through workplace bullying but also their mental health. It may not appear as obvious but workplace bullying has a lot to do with mental health. As bullying is closely linked with psychological harassment and violence, the impact on their mental well-being can be as severe as physical violence.

Psychological issues that are closely associated with workplace bullying are as follows:

1) Panic Attacks

In the context of the workplace, panic attacks often happen when the victim recalls a previous bullying experience upon seeing the bully or anything that reminds him or her of the incident. Panic attacks can be very serious especially when it proceeds to hyperventilation. Not only is this a psychological effect but it also results in heavy breathing and difficulty in basic inhaling and exhaling.

2) Clinical Depression

Since bullying is a repetitive series of events, it is possible for a victim to develop depression. Depression as we know it can lead to a lot of troublesome effects and outcomesOpens in a new tab.. With the feelings of isolation, degradation, apathy, and violence deeply rooted in workplace bullying, depression can occur especially if the victim keeps all the pain, guilt, and shame all to himself. 

3) Complex PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

When workplace bullying becomes a long-term experience for the victim, this may often develop into Complex PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) usually occurs after a traumatizing event like accidents, assault, harassment, and other related incidents. Of course, bullying is included in the list of long triggers which could lead to PTSD.

As the target experiences repeated traumatic experiences, the symptoms showing PTSD are more likely to show more. Not only can the symptoms show or develop into mental illnesses such as this, but the psychological harm can be extreme as well. 

When a bullying victim develops PTSD, they tend to lose their sense of individualism and succumb more to the bullies. This leads to a low rate of productivity caused by self-doubt and frequent self-isolation getting the job untouched or undone.

4) Clinical Anxiety

Targets who have been continuously victimized by bullies in the workplace may be diagnosed with clinical anxiety as well. Anxiety can develop in simple habits which can affect their work productivity. These include nail biting, sudden nervousness, lack of energy, short attention span, reduced focus, and frequent social uneasiness. 

However, clinical anxiety may not always look as negative as it presents itself to be. There are cases wherein a worker is diagnosed with clinical anxiety but he or she seem to display little to zero of the symptoms. If this happens, the productivity rate in the workplace may not be affected, but in the long run, it will drop more quickly than expected.

5) Feelings of Shame and Guilt

Yes, having feelings of shame and guilt are also psychological outcomes of workplace bullying. Feelings of shame often happen when the bully harasses the victim in such a way that the target is publicly humiliated or made fun of. This affects his or her perception of himself and can lead to angst and loss in confidence.

Feelings of guilt occur when the victim realizes that he or she allowed himself to be bullied by the perpetrator. When this happens, the victims end up debating with themselves whether it is time to stand up or just let the situation be. Sadly, this is one of the dilemmas of most victims because it is always a hard decision to choose between allowing themselves to suffer in exchange of wanting a peaceful life or fighting for what is right and just.

Emotional & Economic Effects

Workplace bullying can also have some odd effects on the behavior of the victim. In times wherein the victim is made fun of material possessions, the target tries to disregard these judgments by trying to fit in. They might go ahead and try overspending for items which he or she may think will make their bullies befriend them or they start being emotionally unattached to the situation and changing their attitude in order to fit in. 

Either way, these can directly affect their productivity because of the variables linked in with work. With victims losing their priorities in order to save themselves from humiliation or further bullying experiences, other aspects of their lives, especially in their workplace, get severely affected.

Being economically bullied is also another case. Workplace bullying can also be connected to being economically bulliedOpens in a new tab. because the lack of financial support and can really take a toll on the overall productivity of the person—not having money to eat, to ride public transportation, to buy certain wants and needs. These can all affect productivity and overall well-being in the workplace. Financial instability, which is a big issue in workplaces that do not give their workers just and even pay, is also an underlying issue.

With many aspects of a person being affected due to different types and forms of workplace bullying, productivity levels are also inherently affected. The effects don’t only manifest on the bullied worker, but also greatly affects the reputation of the company and all the other factors attached to it. Because of this, it is very essential to be knowledgeable about how we can combat such hostile behaviors in the workplace and promote holistic well-being and harmonious relationships instead. 

What’s the next step to consider once the effects of workplace bullying are understood?

Tips to Resolve Workplace Bullying

We know it’s hard to really confront bullying issues especially in what is supposed to be a professional environment such as the workplace. However, tolerating it will not help in resolving the problem and letting it be may lead to worsening working conditions, affecting not just you but the whole team as well.

With this, it is very essential to know what can be done to help yourself, help other people being victimized, and hopefully, help make the bully realize why hostile behaviors should not be accepted in a society that should always strive for peace and prosperity.

1) Professionally Confront the Bully

In reality, not everyone is willing to undergo confrontation most especially with people who seem to be superior or powerful. However, in incidents such as workplace bullying, it will be very helpful for you to approach your bully in order to resolve the problem. This can help you overcome them and also help the bully improve his or her character.

Abusive behavior should never be tolerated and as much as we would like to just give a long, full content speech, it is also essential to hear the side of the other party. Who knows, the bully may also be faced with a devastating life event causing him or her to act in such a way. 

Although, regardless of the situation, it would be very essential to have a sit-down session with people involved and have important points raised. Giving the parties an open space to discuss their issues can be a very helpful avenue to let the emotions flow for constructive criticisms and suggestions on how to improve. 

2) Acknowledge & Make It Known That Bullying Should Not Be Tolerated

As much as easy it is to only let a victim’s side be known, it is also important to acknowledge and understand the other party. In instances like these, it would be beneficial to have an objective facilitator, someone who is not in any way sided with any party. By doing so, everyone involved can be assured the discussion will be impartial and nondiscriminatory. This makes the conversation easier for all the parties concerned.

In the course of healthily discussing all points and concerns, it must also be clear to everyone who may be a victim, bystander, or bully, that bullying is and shall never be tolerated especially in a workplace setting. 

There are several legal repercussions to those who violate this and criminal offenses can be charged against those who are linked to the offense. In addition to this, with or without the law, it is not be a behavior accepted in any workplace. With different companies and businesses starting, there are surely core values, visions, and missions implemented. The leaders in an office should safeguard these values and should make certain to ensure their employees that bullying should never be accepted at all costs.

3) File A Report

In the case where a bully does not want to listen or continues to degrade more people in the office, take legal action immediatelyOpens in a new tab.. This is necessary before things spiral further and become worse for all the victims of the bully. Report the misconduct to any high official and if it happens to be that the workplace is biased, take it to legal offices outside the workplace. Know your rights and show assertion. This is essential for bullies to realize that they have no control over anyone and that they are all of the same feathers as you. 

With a legal report filed, hopefully, a change of attitude is bound to happen. However, be wary that you are protected if ever the bully does try to threaten your life in other ways. 

4) Be Transparent

In the course of doing these legalities and ensuring that you are protected and secured, it is important to document each step of the way. By doing so, any kind of sabotage action can be counteracted. In a pressuring environment such as the workplace, connections can be utilized to execute unfavorable and ethically questionable actions. 

With this, it would be helpful to have an ally by your side to help, support, and fight with you if the going gets tough. And of course, if you’re lucky, it would help your case to get each action documented as heavy proof to show all the harassment you have been through and make it a case to really inspire others to stand up for themselves and not allow more bullying to take place.

5) Seek Help

Being a victim of bullying can be a really challenging place to be in. Sadly, each story is not as empowering as the others and it takes a lot of courage to really stand up for yourself. Even if you feel that you are okay and that you’re functioning well, remember the importance of seeking help to ensure that you are well in all health aspects—emotional, psychological, physical.

Set an appointment with a doctor. Talk to your familyOpens in a new tab.. Vent out to your friend. Write a blog post. Journal away your thoughts. Having avenues for you to ensure that your well-being is good and well-taken care off are also steps to not just help yourself but also help the people around you understand that self-care is just as important as standing up against bullying.

With these steps in mind, you can hopefully put a step forward in addressing social issues such as workplace bullying and serve as an inspiration who have yet to battle this.

Proactive Solutions You Can Try Against Workplace Bullying

Rising from a bullying experience is not as easy as it seems and sometimes retaining that level of productivity you once had can be hard to achieve as well. But fret not! Despite the challenges and difficulties, there are still several ways on how you can try to combat bullying while still helping yourself heal from all the traumatizing experiences. Yes, it can be challenging and sometimes triggering, but helping others grow helps you develop a sense of resiliency, leadership, and inner strength. Here are a few ways you can slowly build yourself to hopefully avoid bullying from happening again and help others help themselves:

1) Correct Before It Gets Worse

Oftentimes, bullies have a certain persona which is quite common from person to person. There are usually similar characteristics that can be easily identified especially if you have encountered a bully before. With this, being vigilant and proactive can help kill a problematic behavior before it gets worse. 

You know what they say, old habits die hard, and it is important to ensure that you give your colleague constructive feedback to help them be better and improve the behaviors that can be harmful in the future. 

Approaching your colleague can be as easy as a casual talk, or sharing an experience, or asking about how their day is. Once you have developed a warmer connection with them, providing feedback or suggestions can be easier. Do note that this kind of solution is for their own benefit as well.

2) Develop a Healthy & Productive Team Culture

One of the problems in the workplace which often leads to bullying is culture and traditions. Sometimes, being rude or public humiliation is done because it is the prevalent ‘culture’ in the workplace. However, it is important to take note that culture and traditions change depending on certain realities and needs. Tradition should never be an excuse to be used by anyone in the workplace to take advantage of someone else or humiliate someone.

In developing a healthy and productive team cultureOpens in a new tab. in the workplace, it is important to try to get everyone to be more involved. As teams change per period—when people come in and go—it is important to really see to it that everyone creates a healthy culture that is empowering, uplifting, and equally positive to create a more productive environment Opens in a new tab.for everyone. When this kind of mindset is instilled in everyone, more outputs can be done and work would feel less like a burden since there are healthy work relationships among you and your colleagues.

3) Instill Responsibility & Accountability

Not everyone may be able to jive easily at the start when everyone in each team can come from different backgrounds. Some may also lack very important team player qualities that are very essential for work, especially in coming up with different outputs which will affect the team’s overall performance.

It is important to instill responsibility and accountability in everyone. If you are the team leader of any team, learn how to set expectations and goals at the beginning of each work experience. And if you are a team worker yourself, it would be good to suggest this to the person managing everyone.

Instilling responsibility and accountability in everyone will help develop a sense of teamwork among everyone. When the going gets tough, no one will point fingers towards one another because a team member is willing to be accountable for any mistakes or shortcomings. But it does not stop there! 

Team members who acquire responsibility and accountability do not only take the blame for something wrong that had happened but is also willing to work on it and involve everyone who can be of help in the situation. This kind of sensitivity and group synergy develop maturity among the workers as well as decrease incidences of bullying because you and your colleagues have a greater level of friendship with one another. 

4) Resolve Conflict Properly

In the workplace, it is a common struggle for team players to lack the knowledge of how to resolve conflict. This is very important because no matter how well a team works together, conflict can just really be inevitable. Conflict managementOpens in a new tab. is one of the issues not really taught in the workplace because most employers focus on technical concepts. However, for a team to really function well and last long, knowing how to resolve conflict is the key.

Knowing how to resolve conflict can really be challenging, however, this also helps in lessening cases of bullying in the workplace. When each conflict is resolved maturely and properly, bullying is less likely to happen and each conflict becomes a learning experience for everyone. Conflict Management can really be crucial not only within the team but also for when they interact with outside clients, partners, or other stakeholders. This skill does not only increase levels of productivity in the workplace but it also helps in personality development and social and self-awareness.

5) Check Up On Each Other

It can be quite awkward to genuinely ask about how each other is doing in the workplace,. However, these little conversations can really spark a difference among the members of your team. When someone makes their presence felt to the other, healthier relationships are bound to happen. More than just keeping a working relationship with your colleagues, it could also be helpful to go beyond that. 

By checking up on one another, you start to understand the reasons behind certain behaviors and the others will feel cared for. More often than not, healthy relationships help in avoiding bullying cases in the workplace. Because of this, productivity levels can be maintained at an optimum and no one would have to suffer as a victim of bullying in the workplace—you’re all just good colleagues healthily working with one another.

How Can Companies and Employers Help Out?

There are more tips on how to be more productive and at the same time avoid bullying in the workplace but of course, without proper execution, the results may vary. Although we can give tips on how to promote well-being in the workplace, it is also essential for these attitudes and mindsets to come from the team in order to better absorb the learnings and not just do it for the sake of it. 

Sadly, sometimes no matter how people in the workplace try to address a certain issue such as bullying, it just won’t work without the administration’s support. It would also be much more helpful if organizations and companies provide a more hands-on procedure on how workplace bullying can be prevented in order to promote well-being and improve productivity instead. 

1) Do a Background Check Before Hiring

Companies and employers can really do a lot for their workers and this starts even before the employees even officially enter the company. That is, during their interview. By doing a background check on the people they hire for their businesses and teams, it is critical to conduct a background checkOpens in a new tab.. Doing so can help save co-workers from possible damages and threats that may come with the person to be hired.

However, it can also be a controversial situation to deal with. Some may say that not giving previous bullies a chance can be faulty on their end, and that can be true. With this, it is essential for companies and employers to introduce personality development sessions especially if the candidate or prospect for the job has an alarming background or problematic behavior. This kind of standard operating procedure will not only help the person but it will also help the productivity of the team in the long-run.

2) Conduct Regular Check-Ups

In the course of the actual work experience, it is very important to have regular check-up sessions on employees to get to know the strengths, weaknesses, and things to improve on of each team. Not only should this be done for the team members but everyone involved, including team leaders, managers, supervisors, and the like. 

These kinds of evaluation and sessions can be a way for companies to check the wellness of the members as well as the goals and objectives set by each worker at the start of the term. If you’re wondering how to do this, we have written a detailed article on how workplaces can help workers design wellness goals Opens in a new tab.and objectives that can be essential for their personal and professional development.

Related Questions:

What else should employers do to help employees deal with the psychological effects of workplace bullying? They should promoteOpens in a new tab. awareness about the importance of an individual’s mental health. Companies can provide their employees with the resources they need to assess their mental well-being, from health insurance, readily available information about mental health, and host seminars and workshops about depression, among others.

As an employee how should you maintain your well-being and work productivity? It is also your responsibility to remember to take care of yourself and keep yourself healthy while working. Follow your workplace’s wellness program if they have one and take advantage of health services that they offer. If you are physically healthy, it is easier to keep your concentration and priority on your work. 

Steve Todd

Steve Todd, founder of Open Sourced Workplace and is a recognized thought leader in workplace strategy and the future of work. With a passion for work from anywhere, Steve has successfully implemented transformative strategies that enhance productivity and employee satisfaction. Through Open Sourced Workplace, he fosters collaboration among HR, facilities management, technology, and real estate professionals, providing valuable insights and resources. As a speaker and contributor to various publications, Steve remains dedicated to staying at the forefront of workplace innovation, helping organizations thrive in today's dynamic work environment.

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