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Feature Articles : Mobbing - Part 3

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Three Part Series on Mobbing Overview Profiles Effects Mandate


Effects of Workplace Bullying
   Effects of Workplace Bullying on the Victim
   Effects 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.

Effects of Workplace Bullying on the Victim


Workplace 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.

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.

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 They become withdrawn and alienated from their colleagues, their friends, and sometimes their families.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.

Effects 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 loyalty.

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.

The 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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(Note: Bolding has been added in this series of articles for emphasis.)


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The glory of great men should always be measured
by the means they have used to acquire it.

~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld


Victory is always possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting.

~ Napoleon Hill

Interview with a Target of
Workplace Bullying

by John Peel
on Home Truths,
BBC Radio 4

Courtesy BullyEQ


Calgary Herald
"...grossly unacceptable employer behaviour."
"There was a lot of bullying in the newsroom and it was a gift to be able to stand up and say we are prepared to do something about it."

Canwest Global
"The CanWest corporation is showing the ugly and intolerant face of modern media," ... "While openly interfering in editorial content it cravenly punishes those journalists who have the courage to protest."
"Many journalists left CanWest, deciding to quit or take disability leave after the frigid mood of their newsrooms made them ill."
> Canwest Watch

Imperial Parking
"Timothy Lloyd decided he had had enough of "going in to war every day." ... I was very unhappy in my work -- burned out, stressed out ... There were constant threats of dismissal, constant invading of my personal space, and use of profanity that was personally directed at me."
> HealthSmith

Annuity Research & Marketing Service Ltd.
"Every employer, said Justice Dambrot, owes a contractual duty to its employees to “treat them fairly, with civility, decency, respect, and dignity.” By failing to protect Ms. Stamos from Mr. Hammami’s harassment, the court concluded that the employer had breached this contractual duty."
> Labor Relations Consultants

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