Have you ever been subjected to a bully or "toxic" person in the workplace? I certainly have! My experience was with an individual I was supervising (which made the situation really tough!) and my job became difficult enough, with no available disciplinary approaches or support, that I eventually left the position. According to a recent NY Times article, 37% of American workers said they had experienced bullying on the job.
What does this have to do with health? Everything!
Workers who are targets of bulling have negative health impacts, including stress-related health consequences (including post-traumatic stress syndrome, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome), as well as psychological conditions including depression and anxiety.
Even a Science Daily article discusses the impact of verbal victimization and how it can destroy feelings of self-worth, reduce self-esteem, and cause a stressful work environment. The article says, "in fact, verbal abuse can have more impact upon victims' self-worth than physical attacks, such as punching, or attacks on property, such as stealing or the destruction of belongings."
How do you know if you are being bullied at work? According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, there are many factors. The list is long, so I'll just include the factors that related to my specific situation (with my story in italics):
Experiences outside work
1) you feel like throwing up the night before the start of your work week (or, for me, crying every Sunday night, and coming in late Monday morning..even though I was the boss!)
2) your frustrated family demands that you stop obsessing about work at home (my husband was extremely tired of hearing about my story: "same tune, different verse" every night for 6 months. By the time I was finished with "yet another story", we were both too exhausted to share/hear about his day!)
3) all your paid time off is used for "mental health breaks" from the misery (I had to take many hours/days off of work because I couldn't face another day, or I needed to sort out the problem in my head and journal)
4) you begin to believe that you provoked the workplace cruelty (for me, I thought I wasn't a "strong enough" supervisor and was a push-over or "too nice")
Experiences at work
5) what the bully does to you is arbitrary and capricious, working a personal agenda that undermines the employer's legitimate business interests (very true, had nothing to do about work and productivity; she was out to "win" and for me to "lose")
6) you constantly feel agitated and anxious, experiencing a sense of doom, waiting for bad things to happen (I wasn't able to enjoy my many friends and colleagues who were nice, friendly people, as I was wondering when the other show would drop, and it was usually when I wasn't prepared..so I felt I had to always be on guard and protect myself)
7) no matter what you do, you are never left alone to do your job without interference (I was harassed by overloading me on email questions--20 per day--, multiple phone calls/hour, or "needing" a meeting with me, and if I denied a meeting, I was scolded because I met with another one of my employees and not her)
8) HR tells you that your harassment isn't illegal, that you have to "work it out between yourselves". (This was a big one for me! I created performance improvement plans, approved by HR, but when she did not meet the criteria, it still was not "severe enough" to fire her.)
8) everyone -- co-workers, senior bosses, HR -- agrees that your tormentor is a jerk, but there is nothing they will do about it (This was very true; many bosses, co-workers and patients complained about this person, but when I asked them to speak up, they weren't comfortable or felt threatened themselves)
The NY Times reported that this month, "researchers at the University of Manitoba reported that the emotional toll of workplace bullying is more severe than that of sexual harassment. And in today’s corporate culture, supervisors may condone bullying as part of a tough management style".
This topic is serious enough that new legislation is being looked at, as "antibulling bills" (referred to as "healthy workplace" legislation).
What is your story regarding adult bullies? Tell us what you experienced, and how you handled the situation. Did the bullying create a toxic work environment for you and others? How did it effect your health and well-being?
All user-generated information on this site is the opinion of its author only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. Members and guests are responsible for their own posts and the potential consequences of those posts detailed in our Terms of Service.