Bullying in the Workplace

By CareerSmart Learning Contributor, August 30, 2016, as published by Healthcare Hot Spot


Bullying is a major issue for kids in elementary and high school that receives substantial media attention, yet bullying in the workplace among adults is rarely acknowledged. Sadly, bullying oftentimes goes unrecognized in the workplace, even by the victims themselves.  In some instances, under-reporting is due to inadequate reporting processes and lack of support from management; the individual may also fear the associated stigma or retaliation.

Victims of workplace bullying can experience a wide range of mental and physical issues including: decreased work productivity, lowered self-esteem, increased sickness, depression, difficulty sleeping, stress, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported that healthcare professionals are at increased risk for workplace violence, including harassment, intimidation, and physical abuse. Preventing bullying in the healthcare setting begins with education.

The first step in ending bullying and preventing further incidents is to understand what constitutes bullying.  Workplace bullying is a repeated behavior that is intended to degrade, intimidate, or humiliate a single employee or group of employees.  Bullying can come in many forms; the following are only a few examples:

  1. Unwarranted criticism
  2. Social isolation at work
  3. Public and private humiliation
  4. Being treated differently than colleagues

To help end workplace bullying, healthcare organizations can work with employees to create a safer, more peaceful work environment for all. OSHA recommends that employers hold trainings on workplace violence, harassment, and bullying, which should cover:

  1. A description of the organization’s anti-bullying policy
  2. The protocols for an employee who is bullied or witnesses bullying
  3. An explanation that the organization has a zero-tolerance policy for bullying

Bullying in the workplace also has deep consequences for the workplace at large.  Victims and witnesses of bullying experience a lack of work satisfaction, loss of productivity, and increase in workplace injuries, all of which result in increased staff turnover. Bullying in the workplace is an issue that requires clear education and communication with all employees. Handling bullying in an effective manner is vital to ensuring a happy workplace and healthy staff.


1Safety and Health Assessment Research for Prevention (2011).  Workplace Bullying and Disruptive Behavior: What Everyone Needs to Know.  Retrieved from http://www.lni.wa.gov/safety/research/files/bullying.pdf

2 OSHA. Workplace violence. Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/workplaceviolence/

August 30, 2016

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