Workplace Bullying

Are you a victim of bullying?
Bullies have always existed. They occur at work, at school, in the home and in the community, in fact anywhere where one person has power over another. Although there are many different definitions of bullying, all of them contain the element of power in one form or another.

Workplace bullying has been identified as a major source of both employee discontent and lost productivity with the bully's power coming from several sources. In some cases a bully may use a position of authority in an organisation, such as that of a manager, to intimidate others.

There are various forms of bullying but the main two are in the form of physical bullying and emotional bullying.


Physical bullies rely upon their superior physical strength to bully those who are weaker while emotional bullies first make their victims feel guilty and then use guilt as the basis for bullying. In all cases the ability to bully depends upon the bully's power over the victim.

Only around 10% of bullying involve some form of physical assault. Most cases of bullying involve verbal abuse, "nit-picking", threats, sarcasm, ostracism or sabotage of a person's work.

Violent bullying often includes various kinds of dangerous "practical jokes" or rituals, which involve subjecting the victim to considerable pain or humiliation.

In short, workplace bullying involves the persistent ill treatment of an individual at work by one or more parties. It also has many features in common with school bullying.

Various research reports carried out on the topic of workplace bullying suggest that more employees are bullied by managers than by co-workers. This can be explained by the fact that managers will normally have more opportunities to bully subordinates than other workers.

The old saying about school bullies only picking on people weaker than themselves is equally true of the workplace bully.

Of interest, is that there has been a marked increase in people reporting being bullied since the beginning of the 1990s. This is probably due to both an increase in the behaviour and also an increase in willingness to report it or otherwise take action against it.

However this change has not yet penetrated throughout the entire Australian workforce and there are many workplaces where the old school playground ethic of suffering in silence and of not "dobbing in" still exist. People in such an environment are often reluctant to complain because there is insufficient support and assistance and many are afraid of the consequences they'll face as a result of reporting these bullying acts.

Persistent bullying can have a detrimental effect on a person's self-esteem and leave a lasting impression on not only the people directly involved, but also on victims family, friends and co-workers.

Numerous studies in Australia, United Kingdom, Canada and Western Europe report that victims of workplace bullying often suffer the following:

  • A range of stress related illnesses, from headaches and nausea at one end, to a greater vulnerability and much more serious illnesses at the other. One of the more common consequences of prolonged stress is a weakened immune system which means that the person concerned is more likely to contract serious illnesses or diseases.

  • Psychological illnesses such as depression, which in some circumstances can lead to contemplation of suicide, perhaps even suicide itself.

  • A loss of confidence in his/her own abilities.

  • A withdrawal from social contact with people outside of work as well as at work.

  • Reduced performance at work including increased absenteeism and lateness as well as a lower quality of work output.

  • Increased risk of work related injury.

  • Resigning from a job that was previously enjoyed.

  • Deteriorating relationships with family and friends.

  • Unable to sleep and therefore constant tiredness.


    If you are a victim of workplace bullying or suspect someone close to you is, then there are a number of things that can be done to help stamp out and prevent further bullying from occurring.

    CLICK HERE to read about how to best deal with workplace bullies


    - Annemarie Failla
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