Identifying Workplace Bullying: Signs, Symptoms, and Solutions

Bullying doesn’t just happen in neighborhoods, at home, or in schools. Unfortunately, bullying can also take place at work and even online. Global mobility professionals should pay close attention to bullying as this happens to many expats in the United States who don’t report it to avoid jeopardizing their working visa. 

According to a 2021 survey, 30% of workers have been victims of workplace bullying. And 43% of remote workers have experienced bullying by their superiors or colleagues. They may even justify their ill behavior by saying their company is not doing well and they are looking for scapegoats. 

This is already happening to a lot of tech companies who may be bullying those on their way out and even in a more sinister manner, those who have remained. 

A survey says 61% of the employees are affected by the bullying that happens in their places of work, and most are aware that workplace bullying is a real thing. For those who are unclear about different types of bullying, it’s not unusual if they’re presented in different forms and at varying degrees. 

Bullying categories

  • Verbal – shouting, verbal abuse, shaming, gossip
  • Physical – punching, throwing of objects, hostile body language
  • Mental – intimidation, sabotage, invasion of privacy
  • Emotional – gaslighting, subtle blaming, lies

Who are the bullied? And who are the bullies?

A study shows workplace bullies or ‘perpetrators’ are usually ranked higher (e.g., bosses, supervisors) than the bullied. The same research shows that most of the victims of workplace bullying are employees who are not in management positions.

Statistics show that 67% of bullies are men, 51% of the bullied are men, and women bullies choose women targets 65% of the time.

Where can workplace bullying happen?

Workplace bullying may happen in plain sight. It can occur in the office, during lunch breaks, in meetings, and any field. 

Even global mobility professionals – those who work remotely, experience such mistreatment. About 50% of such acts of bullying or abuse happen in virtual meetings, and 9% are through emails. 

Bullying is likely to happen in work environments that: 

  • are stressful and high-pressure
  • have heavy workload, frequent and excessive over-time 
  • have poor quality employee relationships

What can workplace bullying look like? 

Here are a few common signs or scenarios: 

  • Supervisor unleashes mean and condescending remarks toward an employee during a corporate meeting
  • A colleague who does harmful and humiliating pranks 
  • Employee sabotages a supervisor’s work
  • Boss does frequent micromanaging, undermining one’s performance
  • Gossiping and spreading lies about a colleague
  • Co-workers deliberately leave one person (or a group) out of integral information about work tasks

The effects of workplace bullying

No inherently good effect comes from workplace bullying. It’s detrimental to businesses, work culture, and the professionals involved.

Here are some effects or consequences that bullying can bring to the workplace:

  • Decreased work productivity
  • Loss of trust
  • Disloyalty
  • Financial loss
  • Increased tension among the affected
  • Absences and higher turnover of employees

The physical effects of bullying

Here are some effects of bullying on one’s physical health: 

  • Stomach sickness
  • Headaches
  • Jitters
  • Poor quality of sleep or rest
  • Decreased appetite

The effects of bullying on mental health

Psychological effects of bullying may include:

  • Self-doubt 
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling heightened or threatened
  • Overthinking
  • Losing interest in the things you enjoy
  • Dreading work
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

Solutions to workplace bullying

A report shows that 52% of the bullied workers either left the workplace or were let go; and that 67% of bullied workers lose the job they love without a legitimate reason.

Here are some steps that workers take to resolve issues of bullying or mistreatment:

  • The bullied worker keeps track of the bullying and puts it in writing. They note the place, time, scenario, people involved, and witnesses
  • The bullied worker gathers proof or physical evidence of bullying or mistreatment
  • The bullied worker reports the incident to HR
  • The bullied worker seeks support from others. They may resort to therapy or support groups and loved ones to cope well
  • The bullied worker confronts the bully directly in a calm manner
  • The bullied worker reviews company policies to know how to navigate their situation
  • Pursuing legal action, if applicable, and if advised

How witnesses help the ones directly affected by workplace bullying:

  • Being available to listen
  • Reporting the act/s of bullying
  • Offering needed support to the colleague

Create a safe space at work

Every environment is imperfect, and all types of relationships can go wrong. Awareness of workplace bullying and its effects can help any work culture improve for the better. These tips will help one identify bullying at work to help themselves or others. 

More importantly, knowing how to manage workplace bullying or other undesired workplace behaviors can ensure that professionals thrive in a safer, happier, healthier work environment.