Bullying is defined by the anti bullying alliance (ABA) as:
” the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power. It can happen face to face or online.”
Bullying is normally associated with being a children’s problem. However, bullying among adults is very much real. It is an area which merits more attention and more research, especially in the local context
The fact is that even if it is ‘just’ a children’s problem, we often do not know how to deal with it appropriately.
Often we hear things such as ‘just ignore it’ or ‘don’t pay attention’. While it is generally a good idea to engage as little as possible, it is often harder than we think when the person is carrying repercussions and associated heavy feelings.
Many also fail to acknowledge that when childhood bullying is not appropriately dealt with, it often evolves into other problems. One of which may be bullying in adulthood.
If it happens in adults, it sure happens at the place of work as well as in other environments.
How can we apply the definition of bullying to the workplace?
Bullying has lower turnover rates of being reported in the work context for various reasons. It often brings about shame as any other form of bullying does. Furthermore, the idea that one is being bullied at work adds shame since it is closely associated with the myth that bullying happens only between children.
Depression would arise, alongside the feeling that you have no way out since you must go to work. This becomes increasingly important when there are certain commitments – financial or otherwise, which add to the feeling of being stuck (which is associated with bullying).
Bullying often affects performance. Whether the bullying is coming from a boss or a colleague, the individual might start to lose focus and motivation to do their work as a result.
It also tends to foster distrust. If a person is experiencing constant ridicule or else is being shunned from a particular group at work. One of the negative effects will be feelings of distrust and betrayal among their colleagues.
Another aspect that is affected is self-confidence, leading to poorer performance and further anxiety.
Effects of sleep and eating habits are some of the most visible signs in a loved one. Of course, it takes an open conversation to get to what is happening, but these signs could indicate a problem. Whether it is bullying or something else which is causing this distress.
Lastly, along with other mental health problems, bullying can have a traumatic effect. People often find it difficult to let go of the harsh words and the insensitivity that is exhibited in bullying behaviour. Especially so if a person has had previous experience with bullying. In this case, certain beliefs about the self would have been potentially re-confirmed by the more-recent experience.
This article is aimed to shed some light on workplace bullying. If you or anybody you know is experiencing any type of bullying, please reach out and make sure that you are supported.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Jessica Saliba Thorne is a Gestalt psychotherapist. She has experience within the mental health field and sees adults with mental health difficulties, relationship issues and trauma at Willingness.
Anti-Bullying Alliance. (2021). Our definition of bullying. Anti-Bullying Alliance. https://anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk/tools-information/all-about-bullying/understanding-bullying/definition
Newby, J. (2022, October 10). The Effects of Adult Bullying in the Workplace. MI Blues Perspectives. https://www.mibluesperspectives.com/stories/behavioral-health/the-effects-of-adult-bullying-in-the-workplace
Mamma Z. (2017, November 29). Top 5 Negative Effects of Bullying. WeHaveKids; WeHaveKids. https://wehavekids.com/education/Top-5-Negative-Effects-Bullying-Has-on-ChildrenTeens