Bullying that we see within the walls of an office typically comes in the form of emotional attacks. Workplace bullies use emotional attacks as a way to humiliate and disarm their targets. These negative interactions that occur on a daily basis can induce severe stress-related health issues.
The Workplace Bullying Institute notes that the longer a victim is exposed to stressors of bullying, the more severe the psychological impact. Victims of bullying can experience psychological-emotional injuries ranging from anxiety to panic attacks to clinical depression to post-traumatic stress (PTSD).
Not only does workplace bullying harm the individual, but it harms productivity within the workplace. Recent research shows that the induced depression and anxiety from bullying has driven an increase in absenteeism, sick days, and turnover.
To explore on a deeper level the impact of bullying on the mental health of employees, an interdisciplinary team examined a data set of over 3,000 Danish employees. The data revealed that women and men both reported similar bullying behaviors as well as immediate health effects. However, where the men and women of the study differed was in long-term health effects.
Across 60 danish companies that participated, employees filled out a comprehensive survey with questions relating to their stress levels, health, sickness absences, and their experiences with workplace bullying. To stay as objective as possible, researchers avoided using the word “bullying” and instead asked questions prompting 21 incidents of bullying, such as being “humiliated or ridiculed in connection to work“.
The research team behind the study defined an individual of bullying as someone who experienced at least two negative actions a week over the past six months. For an action to qualify as bullying it must have taken over the course of a long period of time and be by someone who ranks of a higher authority.
Upon analysis of the surveys, women appeared to have a greater negative impact from bullying when compared to men. In the sample of women, the rate of sickness absences escalated as well as the use of antidepressant prescriptions. Men, on the other hand, did not exhibit a significant relationship between bullying and long-health effects. However, men did report that they were twice as likely to leave their job compared to co-workers who were not bullied.
The reason behind why female and male employees have such a contrast in their reactions to bullying is still unclear. What is clear, however, is that no matter the gender workplace bullying has a negative effect on its employees.