Part 2: Bullying and workplace stress

Bullying in the workplace
Dr. Darren Bassett
Written by Dr. Darren Bassett

Workplace bullying can be an enormous source of stress in the workplace, today I’m going to take a look at how it impacts an employee and the effects it has on them and the organisation.

Today I am going to focus on relationships as a contributing factor of stress in the workplace. If you haven’t read part one (Part 1: Employee stress factors in the workplace), you can read it here.

Some of the most dramatic causes of stress I have ever seen all stem from negative relationships in the workplace, increasing stress levels and decreasing health.

…70% of British workers admitted to being bullied at work…83% of European workers are victims of bullying…

The internet recruitment company Monster carried out a survey about bullying in the workplace which revealed that seven in ten British workers admitted to being bullied at work, by either a colleague or more commonly their boss.

You might be thinking “so what?”, but the shocking fact is that those figures rocketed the UK into the realms of the Worlds’ most bullied workers.

Not only that, but 83 percent of European workers were revealed to have been victims of bullying at one time or another during their career.

The real trouble is what is deemed to be bullying, the lines are very blurred and seem to move to accommodate bad behaviour often. The truth is that negative behaviour is probably already all around you, and we are just told to shrug it off as high spirits.

However, there are more severe things going on daily too, and most thoughts of feeling bullied come from the top 8 reported problems:

  • Being ignoring and excluded
  • Being set unachievable and unrealistic tasks
  • Spreading rumours
  • Setting meaningless and unpleasant tasks
  • Humiliation in front of colleagues
  • Withholding information
  • Physical or verbal abuse
  • Undervaluing a colleague’s contribution
RELATED:  Part 3: Spotting the signs of workplace stress

As you can easily see, the issues presented can easily spiral out of control and the employee will quickly start to feel stressed.

Negative behaviour in the workplace soon becomes stress in the workplace, where an employee or even a group of employees begin experiencing raised stress levels leading to ill mental health, ultimately impacting work performance dramatically.

Let’s take a look at some of the effects of this negative behaviour:

Stress – mental health

This one is pretty straightforward, employees who are the focus of negative behaviour at work could begin to feel isolated and their mental health suffers as a consequence. Anxiety, depression, trouble sleeping and panic attacks are all commonly seen with employees under this type of stress.

Worse still, the longer the employee is exposed to this negative behaviour, the more likely the employee will dwell on their negative experiences, further impacting their life, including personal time which can start to impact their mental health even more and make them anxious to even go to work in the first place.

Stress – physical health

This one isn’t so obvious, and it’s precisely why mental health sick days are such a huge problem.

While the mental effects of such negative behaviour are much more expected, the resulting impact on physical health can often be overlooked.

When an employee is subject to frequent negative input, they could start to experience physical manifestations of illness such as high blood pressure, blackouts, fatigue, aches, adrenal fatigue and even a compromised immune system leading to more prolific illnesses.

RELATED:  Part 1: Employee stress in the workplace

This leads to negative impact on overall work capability and quality.

How workplace stress effects productivity and concentration

We have all experienced days where we just can’t concentrate because of a deadline, an imposing launch or event or even just poor sleep the night before. So it’s not too hard for you to imagine for a moment that if you were the focus of negative behaviour in the workplace, just how hard concentration could be for you when you are constantly thinking about the situation.

Employees who are bullied at work have much more trouble staying focused than their counterparts, their workload starts to backup and this leads to more stress due to performance expectations. They also start to experience some difficulty making decisions, leading to an overall loss of their, and ultimately the organisations’ productivity.

In the last part of this mini-series (Part 3: Spotting the signs of workplace stress), I’ll be taking a look at how to spot and manage some of the more obvious signs of stress in the workplace.


Stress questionnaire

Stress Questionnaire

Identify stress worksheet

How to Identify Stress

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About the author

Dr. Darren Bassett

Dr. Darren Bassett

Specialising in law companies, Dr Darren Bassett has an extensive knowledge of mental health in the workplace. Working with small and large organisations alike, Darren helps guide them, enabling dramatic change from within with the least drama and cost.

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