5 ways workplace bullies are ruining your organization.

Before you dismiss the topic of workplace bullying as something that only happens in the most toxic and dysfunctional organizations, think again. According to research conducted by the University of Phoenix, 75% of workers are affected by workplace bullying. The problem is far from rare, and even if everything seems fine, it could be slowly but surely eroding the morale and well-being of your employees.

Understanding what bullying is

Before you can deal with bullying, you first need to know what it looks like. LifeSpeak expert and workplace civility guru Catherine Mattice defines bullying as repeated behavior that creates a psychological power imbalance and causes harm to both victims and witnesses. The Workplace Bullying Institute supplements that the behavior is either threatening, humiliating, intimidating, abusive, or sabotages the target’s ability to complete their work. Actions that would constitute bullying include yelling at a colleague, belittling them, forcing them to complete trivial or demeaning tasks, intentionally ignoring them, overloading them with assignments, using aggressive body language, name calling, etc.

What causes bullying at work

It’s not always clear why certain individuals choose to pick on others, but the desire for control and to assert dominance are usually primary motivators. Mattice has found that workplace bullying is more likely to occur when:

  • Employees don’t feel empowered to speak up
  • Rigid bureaucracy and/or hierarchy concentrates power at the top
  • High levels of competition pit employees against each other
  • Sudden and/or extreme change makes employees feel blindsided or directionless
  • Cliques and/or siloed departments make newcomers feel excluded
  • Job role ambiguity leaves employees vulnerable to exploitation
  • Low job satisfaction makes employees feel frustrated or undervalued

The dangerous effects of workplace bullying

Unfortunately, many managers choose to overlook bullying rather than stop the behavior. This, in effect, encourages the bullying to continue — and possibly even escalate. Bullying can have terrible results for both individuals and organizations in the short and long run. Below are just some of the major issues that can arise:

  1. Increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression among targets and witnesses
  2. Physiological problems, including raised blood pressure and insomnia due to mental distress
  3. Higher rates of presenteeism and absenteeism, as employees are unable to concentrate at work or avoid coming in altogether
  4. Reduced productivity, which can make the organization less competitive as a whole
  5. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in extreme cases

Creating a safe and positive workplace environment

None of your employees deserves to feel intimidated or afraid at work. If you are concerned about a bully in your organization, our video with Catherine Mattice will equip you with the appropriate knowledge and skills to deal with the problem. The LifeSpeak library also contains dozens of resources on workplace civility, employee engagement, and maintaining a healthy, supportive corporate culture. To find out more, please book a free demo today.


Also published on Medium.