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The disturbing impact of workplace bullying

Published 12 August 2019

The disturbing impact of workplace bullying

There is a well-known saying that actions have consequences and this is most certainly the case with bullying where those consequences can be devastating.

The target of a workplace bully can live in fear of work and is likely to start each working week overwhelmed by stress and anxiety.

It can destroy peoples’ lives. It can cause extreme worry, depression, tearfulness and self-doubt and force those who feel unable to challenge the bullying to leave their job.

The victims can suffer mentally, emotionally and physically and it can lead to long-term problems, suicidal thoughts and in some tragic cases death.

Bullying was described by one US expert as ‘psychological violence’ which has a tremendous negative impact (1)

Victims lose confidence and can feel traumatised, isolated, powerless, confused and helpless.

In looking at the damaging effect of workplace bullying, it is important to look at what bullying actually is.

Bullying is any unwanted conduct that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended. The perpetrator can be inside or outside of the workplace, any gender and in a senior or junior position or at the same level.

ACAS has produced a leaflet providing guidance for employees on bullying and harassment at work (2)

It characterises bullying as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) survey for 2018 identified bullying at work as the second biggest problem, after stress, which union representatives had to deal with (3)

The survey found that bullying was widespread, with an estimated 25 per cent of workers having directly experienced bullying at least once in the previous five years.

The Guardian documented accounts of victims of workplace bullying. It included reports of how one person’s confidence was ‘shot to pieces’ and they could not sleep, another who lost confidence and thought they were going mad and one who suffered panic attacks (4)

The way in which bullying can injure the target of it can manifest itself in different ways.

The work, performance and productivity of the individual are likely to suffer as a consequence.

The likelihood is that the employee will feel excluded and uncomfortable in the workplace as they often suffer unbeknown to those around them.

It is not always easy to switch off after work and bullying can inevitably have a damaging effect on life outside of work.

Without an emotional outlet and feeling stressed and agitated, the smallest thing can result in an extreme reaction from those subjected to bullying at work.

Bullying and harassment are similar, but different in that harassment is a form of discrimination.

Under the Equality Act 2010, harassment is unwanted conduct which is related to one of the following: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation and is therefore unlawful (5)

There can be a tendency for employers to underestimate the seriousness of bullying, certainly where allegations are made against managers. In such cases the unacceptable conduct is often excused as strong management or a personality clash.

Crucial to tackling bullying most successfully is to address any concerning aspects of workplace behaviour such as unacceptable banter, rudeness and serious incidents in order so that they do not become part of an accepted and established workplace culture.

Employers should take any reports of bullying seriously and investigate any such allegations without delay.

Taking such an approach is vital as it will help to reassure victims that they are being listened to, as they can suffer in silence for weeks, months or even years.

NOTE: was not sure if to add a bit at the end saying if you need help contact us. Will leave that for you to decide


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  1. USA [Internet] [Accessed on 5th August]
  2. Acas [Internet] [Accessed on 5th August]
  3. The Trade Union Congress [Internet] [Accessed on 5th August 2019]
  4. The Guardian [Internet] [Accessed on 5th August 2019]
  5. Equality Act 2010 [Internet] [Accessed on 5th August 2019]

A reputation built on success

For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 


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