When we think of bullying we often associate it with the school yard. Bullies we knew from our youth may have grown up, but they didn’t grow out of their old habits. As we transition from the playground to the working world, bullies still remain. Recent research shows that over 20% of employees have been affected by workplace bullying. 

Where as the bullies we encountered on the playground were more physically aggressive, workplace bullies are often more verbally and psychologically abusive. Workplace bullying can be defined as a repeated pattern of the misconduct by your employer, another coworker, or a group of people at work.

This abusive misconduct often comes in the form of verbal comments, that mentally hurt or isolate a person or persons within the workplace. This bullying is threatening, humiliating, intimidating, and often interferes with the employee’s work performance. Not to mention their physical and mental health.

When we think back to the bullies of the playground, we can recognize that bullies pick their targets because they were considered “weaker” or “odd” and don’t fit in with the crowd. In comparison to the workplace, the opposite is often true. Targets of workplace bullies are those who present a threat to a bully whether that be possessing more skills or even being more liked. Targets often pose to be a threat to insecure coworkers and bosses.

Examples of workplace bullying can range from blatantly obvious to subtle actions. A few examples of workplace bullying include but are not limited to:

  • Intimidating coworkers
  • Spreading spiteful rumors
  • Screaming at coworkers
  • Doling out unnecessary or undeserving punishment
  • Providing unnecessary criticisms
  • Making offensive jokes
  • Providing wrong or withholding information
  • Messing with personal belongings or work equipment

Workplace bullying can affect both the individual and the overall workplace. Those who are targets of bullying can feel emotional effects from frustration to an increased sense of vulnerability. Victims can also experience physical effects such as a loss of appetite, the inability to sleep, and psychosomatic symptoms like headaches and stomach pains. As well, multiple studies have shown that targets of bullying have higher rates of cardiovascular issues, anxiety and depression. Of great concern is that outcomes can be terminal often through suicide.

Bullying not only affects the individual but the entirety of the organization. Workplaces that are corrupted by bullying experience a high stress environment, a high turnover rate, decrease productivity, and overall a decreased sense of employee morale.

If you see bullying occurring in the workplace, do not ignore it or delay resolution. The best course of action is to create a solution before the situation gets too out of hand. By encouraging others to respect and enforce a good workplace policy, your office can look less like a playground and more like a business.