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Workplace Bullying And Mental Health (Effects Of A Toxic People In Our Mental Health And Work Performance)

We’ve all encountered or know a boss or a co-worker who shout, gossips, demean, ignore, criticize, judge, or even hide work information from you

Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

Personal encounter with workplace bullies.

I have worked for 15 years in the corporate setting and within those years I have met, worked, and dealt with a lot of people in all levels. I had leaders that helped me in my career, taught me everything about my job, and became a friend or a mentor. I also had co-workers who not only helped me at work but encouraged me to move forward in my career, and some became very good friends as well. But not all bosses and colleagues that I’ve met in the workplace were friendly and helpful, there’s always an exception and there’s always someone who will get on your nerves, and some you might even call a Bully.

Of course, it is not always the other person’s fault I also had my contribution why the working relationship turns sour; I also made terrible mistakes, slow to learn some things, and not complying with what I was told. Here are my experiences from people that I’ve worked with and worked for and why I consider them a bully:

I could never forget that boss who did not train you and but set such a high expectation even if you’re just a new employee and had one year of working experience. I’m always the apple of the eye in her department, and there was never a day that I wasn’t criticized or always wrong in what I do. She expects me to learn everything fast and keep up with my veteran co-worker, she didn’t give me proper guidance on how to do my work, and I’ve never really got to talk to her privately she just relayed her message to her staff to me.

Have you encountered a co-worker who acts like your boss? I do, and she’s a nightmare! She commanded the things that I should do, criticized my work, and she’s always in a bad mood. I’m always tiptoeing when I approach her regarding work, afraid that she would get angry and breathe fire on me. Let me tell you a little bit of a background as I think it could be one of the reasons why she has never liked me at all. She has years of experience in the company and stayed in the same position, now comes a newbie who’s rank and position is higher than her and some of her tasks were given to me. In those years that I’ve worked with her, it was always a pain to ask a question or information to her because she would always say “you should know that your position is higher than me”. Ugghhh…

I also had a boss who always shouts and my heart was always racing whenever he arrives in the office. He is always right and could not except any explanation no matter how rational it is. He shouts, throws paper, he says foul words, and he demeans his staff whenever they made a mistake. Luckily I was not directly reporting to him, but I also had experienced being shouted by him and I cried a lot.

Now here comes a very controlling and manipulative boss with her gang. She will make you feel like she owns you by the way that she treats you. Her words always contradict her actions, saying that she’s an advocate of work-life balance but she’s making her staff work at night, and even during weekends. She will message you late at night and early in the morning regarding work. Always changing her mind about the work direction, thus you have no sense of control over your work. Always criticizing, shouting, demeaning, comparing one staff to the other, and will even judge your personal life. 

You can’t trust anybody in the office because everyone was afraid of her, and if you said a comment regarding how she runs the department someone will definitely tell that to her to avoid her wrath and become her favourite in the office. She loves to gossip and like to hear personal issues about other people, she will also tell that to you even if you are not interested and even during working hours.

Of course, those people mentioned were not totally bad they have a good side as well, but they contribute to the toxicity in the workplace and mental health of the people working with them or for them.

Working with a toxic person, a bad boss, or a bully.

We’ve all encountered or know a boss or a co-worker who shout, gossips, demean, ignore, criticize, judge, or even hide work information from you. Sometimes it’s the other person and sometimes it’s us. All of us had a contributing factor in the relationship whether good or bad, either we are the bully or we let ourselves be bullied. 

Most of the time the person who is being bullied is in a position who doesn’t have that much authority in the organization or what we call the rank-and-file. But that doesn’t mean that those in that position doesn’t contribute to the toxicity of the workplace and sometimes they are the bully themselves.

They say that it’s easier if you’re on top or if you’re the boss because you have the authority and you call the shots, but it is also said that it’s lonelier at the top as some people in the workplace may not directly bully the people with authority but they do it inconspicuously. 

Have you had any experience being shouted at, criticized in front of your colleagues, hide vital work information from you, gossiped at, given meaningless tasks, micromanaged, left out, or even humiliated in the office? At some point in our career, we’ve met a bully or sometimes we are the bully ourselves, sadly most of us are sugar-coating it as managing people or getting the job done. 

Here’s what researchers have to say about this and what I also learned.

According to 2015 meta-analysis study by B. Verkuil; S. Atasayi; M. Molendijk, they’ve concluded that workplace bullying is a significant predictor for subsequent mental health problems, including depressive, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms and other stress-related psychological complaints.

It is not surprising that work has an impact on mental health since people spend most of their daily lives at work. Work provides meaning, income, and social relationships, but it can also cause stress. The most extensively studied forms of work-related stress factors are perceived job control and demands and effort-reward imbalances. Yet, other work-related factors are believed to influence mental health as well. 

The concept of workplace bullying entails situations in the workplace where an employee persistently and over a long time perceives him- or herself to be mistreated and abused by other organization members, and where the person in question finds it difficult to defend him/herself against these actions. Workplace bullying may be related specifically to one’s tasks and can take the form of unreasonable deadlines, meaningless tasks, or excessive monitoring of work. Workplace bullying may also be person-related and take the form of gossiping, verbal hostility, persistent criticism, or social exclusion. A critical aspect of workplace bullying, shared by the manifold operationalizations that exist, is that is not limited to one single event, but that it is a persistent experience throughout one’s working days.

Consistent with stress theories, workplace bullying has been recognized as the main source of distress that is associated with subsequent health and decreased well-being, to lowered job satisfaction and performance, reduced commitment, and higher levels of sickness absenteeism. In addition, workplace bullying has been associated with psychotropic drug use.

Workplace bullying is a topic or culture in the workplace that hasn’t been given enough attention or importance. Workplace bullying occurs not only during a physical or verbal fight but also it occurs even as simple as discreetly spreading gossip against another employee. It’s a culture in every company that never knew what it was or concealing it with other attributes, that when you analyze it, it was obviously categorized as bullying.

Here are some steps on how you can solve this.

According to studies as well, in order to intervene on the potentially damaging effects of workplace bullying, it may be very important to understand the potential vicious circle of workplace bullying and mental health problems. Organizations should prioritize the prevention and management of bullying at work as it has detrimental effects on the mental health of employees. (B. Verkuil; S. Atasayi; M. Molendijk, 2015)

On the other hand self-awareness and setting boundaries is the key for us not to be a constant victim of bullying, and we need to focus on what is within our control, which is ourselves. If you think that you’re being bullied try to look at it on a third person’s perspective or set your emotions aside to see if the person is displacing their issues on you, just making some mindless rant, or trying to improve your work. Deflect the hurtful words that were given to you try not to let it sink in, stand up and voice your perspective, never let the other person push you as the bully will only gain power if you let them.

We also need to be aware if we ourselves are the bully or the toxic one by observing if we are displacing our negativities to other people or having a hard time managing our emotions. We also need to ask ourselves every time that, if the words that we’re going to say to others will be given to us how would we feel. 

It is hard sometimes to be kind and understanding to other people if we are pressured with deadlines, targets, workload, including juggling our own family issues and problems. But it is more than just getting the job done and earning income, it is also building better working relationships with people around us. Because at the end of the day it is our humanness and impact to people that makes us valuable, that makes us admirable, and that makes us a worthy connection.

Imagine how better things would be if we put kindness at work.

That people within the organization are harmoniously working with one another, getting the job done without so much drama and conflict, everyone is excited to go to the office, and everybody is giving their best at work. Of course, conflict is part of any relationships but if we are open in discussing our differences, admitting our mistakes, and be kind enough to understand where the other person is coming from we could easily resolve issues in the office and carry on with our tasks effectively and ecstatically. 

#SublimationNotRegression

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Charlene Lucas, RPsy

Charlene is a Registered Psychologist, focusing on work-related stress, issues, burnout, trauma, depression, anxiety, and stabilization of emotions. Follow her on LinkedIn.

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