- PART 3
Effects of Workplace Bullying
of Workplace Bullying on the Victim
of Workplace Bullying on the Organisation
In the final article on workplace
bullying, Jacinta Kitt highlights the effects that
this serious problem creates for the individual and
for the workplace generally.
of Workplace Bullying on the Victim
bullying causes indescribable pain and suffering to
those who are targeted and become its victims. It
is responsible for a kaleidoscope of disturbing illnesses.
They can be grouped under the umbrella term of 'negative
stress', a condition that erodes self-worth, self-esteem
and self-confidence. Victims suffering from this form
of stress typically present with headaches, gastrointestinal
problems, exhaustion, insomnia, anxiety, depression,
burn-out, panic attacks, palpitations or dermatological
disorders. Victims of bullying invariably exhibit
great unhappiness and desperation. They are frequently
tearful, irritable, confused, sad or angry. They may
increase their consumption of alcohol, caffeine, nicotine
or drugs. Many victims become submissive, avoiding
any occasion or action that might provoke the abuse.
Their submission belies their absolute consumption
by, and obsession with, the problem. To onlookers
this preoccupation is often wrongly perceived as paranoia
and they are labelled as troublemakers. Victims of
bullying are invariably afraid of something or someone.
They fear those who bully them. They fear loss of
credibility. They fear reprisals. They fear losing
financial advancement and some fear losing their career.
Predictably, many victims fear that they are going
mad. When bullies publicly embarrass or humiliate
their victims they unleash a very powerful fear indeed.
The fear of appearing foolish or of being shamed is
ranked in psychological and anxiety tests as the most
powerful of all fears.
who are trapped in an abusive environment are
deeply and profoundly affected on a daily basis.
These effects are progressive, long-term,
and completely unacceptable.
An inevitable consequence of bullying
is the victim’s feeling of self-doubt and worthlessness.
They become withdrawn and alienated from their colleagues,
their friends, and sometimes their families. They
may lose their sense of empathy and indeed their sense
of humour. They become obsessed with what’s
happening to them and find it difficult to put it
out of their minds. They lose the ability to have
fun or to enjoy life.
The effects of workplace bullying
are totally and utterly devastating. Bullied men and
women feel very hurt, vulnerable, and useless. Many
abused employees take early retirement or leave their
jobs. Bullying is highly destructive and in extreme
cases it can result in suicide. Bullying at work creates
a hostile and dysfunctional environment. It makes
working life a misery for its victims. Victims who
are trapped in an abusive environment are deeply and
profoundly affected on a daily basis. These effects
are progressive, long-term, and completely unacceptable.
of Workplace Bullying on the Organisation
There is general consensus that
workplace bullying results in negative and destructive
organisational effects. These include reduced commitment,
higher absenteeism, high personnel turnover, lack
of employee motivation, reduced enthusiasm, less creativity,
vision, loyalty, job satisfaction and morale. When
employees have to protect themselves in abusive workplaces
they have little time or mental energy for productivity.
Abuse makes them disillusioned, exhausted, and burnt-out.
These are hardly the ingredients of an effective workplace.
The cost to an organisation whose
workers suffer abuse is substantial. Victims are not
working to their potential. They absent themselves
from decision making and risk-taking. Their confidence
and imagination are diminished. Whereas many victims
of workplace bullying leave their posts, many more
(for a variety of reasons) choose to, or have to,
stay. Those remaining have two options. They can accept
what is happening to them or they can stand firm and
confront it. The more courageous and confronting option
should be undertaken on an incident by incident basis,
and in as calm a manner as possible. It may not dramatically
change the behaviour of the bully, but it sends a
message to them that their behaviour is not appropriate
or acceptable. Confronting, however, is particularly
difficult in a climate where bullying is tolerated,
and even accepted. Lack of understanding of
the effects of bullying on a workplace may explain
some incidences of tolerance of the problem. However,
a more likely explanation is that management (and
indeed some workers) turn a blind eye to bullying.
Many regard the abuse being complained of as merely
an attempt to chivvy employees into working harder.
For those workplaces who pride themselves on strong,
tough management, bullying can very easily become
part of the culture. The perpetrator of the abuse
may be an inveterate bully disguised as a very effective
manager. It must be emphasized that bullying management
styles are no longer acceptable or appropriate. They
affect the efficiency of employees through the creation
of deep resentment, lowered motivation, and reduced
employers and managers are to prevent workplace
bullying they need to be convinced that interpersonal
relationships at work have a huge impact on the health,
well-being and effectiveness of the employees.
killing of innovation and initiative are devastating
consequences of workplace bullying. The fear of failure
is too great to allow for experimentation. Uncertainty,
suspicion and conspiracy prevent creativity, the introduction
of new ideas, and open discussions.
If employers and managers are to
prevent workplace bullying they need to be convinced
that interpersonal relationships at work have a huge
impact on the health, well-being and effectiveness
of the employees. How workers feel about each other
and how they work together can dramatically affect
how employees feel about their workplace. The Management
style adopted by those in charge greatly influences
how they interact with their employees. Management
by fear leaves people bitter, despondent, and dejected.
Bosses who demonstrate total disrespect for their
employees frequently humiliate them and lower their
dignity. The behaviour associated with this type of
leadership destroys trust and ends communication.
Much of the research on workplace bullying focused
on the bullying boss, however it is recognised that
colleagues can also be perpetrators of bullying. Irrespective
of who is doing the bullying, the atmosphere changes
almost as soon as the abuse begins. Cheerfulness turns
to sullen behaviour and silence.
Poor co-operation, is a consequence
of bullying that has devastating effects on workplaces.
Team effort often involves merely not criticizing
the boss or the boss’s decisions. The abusive
workplace may stress unity and loyalty but the real
message is to keep dissent, complaints and meaningful
communication suppressed. Bullying is not just the
problem of the individual victim however, it is also
the problem of the workplace as a whole. Until
organisations begin to examine what is really going
on, and until problems can be brought to the surface
for open and honest discussion, bullying will continue
to thrive and destroy individuals and entire workplaces.
Ensuring that workplaces are psychologically safe
and healthy places to work and insisting that each
and every employee is treated with respect and dignity,
are the best possible ways of preventing workplace
bullying. These steps do not involve a huge financial
commitment . They can be achieved by a realisation
that workplace bullying is a corrosive and destructive
force for employees and employers alike, and by a
determination not to tolerate it.
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has been added in this series of articles for emphasis.)