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How often do you hear of bullying in the workplace? Although we often hear of other types of violence in the workplace, workplace bullying is now receiving growing attention and is considered to be a severe social stressor in the workplace. Workplace bullying is defined as repeated, persistent and continuous negative acts or verbal comments. It involves more than a single act and is generally associated with a power imbalance whereby the victim is unable to defend self and feels inferior. Bullying can include verbal or physical attacks, hurting, excluding or isolating a person, humiliating or degrading a person or a group of people.

The Ontario Safety Association for Community and Healthcare (OSACH) provides examples of workplace bullying behaviours. These include:

  • isolating someone,
  • rumours,
  • personal attack of a person’s private life or personal attributes,
  • excessive or unjustified criticism,
  • verbal aggression,
  • withholding information,
  • mobbing,
  • abuse,
  • victimization and social undermining
  • negative physical contact, such as pushing or throwing objects.

Workplace bullying has shown to have various significant negative consequences for employees, employers and organizations. Various studies have found workplace bullying to be associated with sick leave, absenteeism, interpersonal conflict at work, high turnover rates, poorer customer service, burnout, and decreased morale. Workplace bullying has also been shown to contribute to increased stress, psychosomatic symptoms, decreased well-being, sleep problems, concentration difficulty, feelings of helplessness, anxiety and depression, mood irritability, and musculoskeletal health complaints.

Recent findings have shown that workplace bullying is the strongest contributor to anxiety and depression even when other job stressors are taken into account. Studies have also shown that not only those who are targets of bullying but also the observers of bullying, the bystanders, also suffer when a person is bullied at work. Thus, bullying is a problem affecting everyone, the entire work environment.

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