Home > Bullying > Ten Symptoms of Bullying at Work

Ten Symptoms of Bullying at Work

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 11 Oct 2016 | comments*Discuss
 
Symptoms Bullying Burn Out Concentration

Bullying at work is commonplace. The facts are stark. Surveys show that at some time during their working lives, half of UK workers have endured bullying. Experts who have studied bullying in the workplace make a further important point: business people and politicians have little interest in the prevention of bullying. This is despite the number of anti-bullying policies many organisations have adopted. Instead, line managers still bully staff with few repercussions.

A responsibility exists for everyone to combat this unpleasant aspect of working life. And one way to start is to identify the symptoms that show someone may be suffering from the attentions of a workplace bully.

1. Indecision

Some people are naturally indecisive. But when a person who is normally comfortable making decisions becomes irresolute, there may be an underlying problem. Bullying may cause this. Bullied workers lose confidence in their ability to be decisive when a bully criticises and harasses them.

2. Unable to Cope

Bullying may cause people to become unable to cope. Workers who usually manage to accomplish tasks with ease may suddenly appear bewildered by the simplest things. Bullies can shatter workers’ feelings of self-esteem. This results in the victims wishing they were anywhere other than the workplace.

3. Reduced Alertness

Many people may suffer from reduced alertness because of occasional tiredness. But a consistent fall in alertness suggests a more worrying cause. Bullying is distracting. It can interrupt a worker’s normal thought patterns. Bullied people may fail to pay attention to what’s happening around them. To their colleagues, they seem far less alert.

4. Reduced Efficiency

Reduced alertness because of bullying can lead to inefficiency. Previously efficient workers may begin to neglect duties. Or they may perform duties but seem unconcerned about getting them right. Poor efficiency, like many of the other symptoms listed here, can also lead to problems for colleagues. They have to resolve problems because of a worker’s failure to do his or her job properly.

5. Poor Concentration

Some people who suffer bullying try to put the matter to the backs of their minds. But worries about bullying have a way of coming to the fore. Poor concentration is a symptom of this. Supervisors in particular may notice the effects of this on workers. And for the bullied worker, poor concentration can be frustrating.

6. Anxiety

This frustration may lead to anxiety. Alternatively, someone may exhibit anxiety as a direct result of bullying. Bullied people may become anxious about the security of their jobs. They may worry about their next meeting with the bully. Or they may be concerned about their reaction to bullying and their failure to stand up for themselves.

7. Irritability

Irritability is easy to spot. A colleague may have a short temper or make uncharacteristically nasty remarks. Irritability could be the result of a bad night’s sleep or a troublesome journey to work. But it can also be a sign of someone who is emotionally fragile after bullying.

8. Tiredness

When bullied, some people withdraw into themselves and show outward signs of tiredness. They may, when asked, be unable to explain just why they are so weary. Such tiredness can also have a link to depression. This is one of the most alarming psychological effects of bullying.

9. Confusion

Confusion is different to reduced alertness and poor concentration. It’s a mental state that’s distressing for both the sufferers and their colleagues. Once again, confusion is fairly easy to spot. But a bullied person may not just be confused about work. He or she may also become confused about personal matters unrelated to the workplace.

10. Burn Out

The ultimate symptom of bullying is burn out. At this point, the sufferer is physically and mentally exhausted. What an employer should find out is why the burn out occurred, and what to do to prevent this happening again.

Investigation

The above symptoms are not exclusive. Nor do they automatically indicate bullying. But proven links exist between these symptoms and bullying behaviour. Such behaviour can affect workers badly. The overriding concerns of experts in this field are physical and mental health problems.

Bullied people can develop a long list of health difficulties. These include depression, colitis, migraines and high blood pressure. Victims of bullies may also have dry skin and rashes, coughs, frequent indigestion and a need to urinate often. These health issues are for a doctor to check and rectify. But the long-term solution is to stop bullying. As such, all workers should be on the alert for symptoms of bullying. It’s better to address these than allow accumulated stress to damage a worker’s health.

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[Add a Comment]
I have been bullying and sexual / verbally harassment by the client of my company JLR and now I have been suspended of my work because the clients are reporting I amshowing a lot of anxiety and irritability.No sure how to dial with the situation. I need help. What should I do?
None - 11-Oct-16 @ 4:13 PM
Tigerlily - Your Question:
I am off work for stress and anxiety, which has developed into depression, my manager started about 11 months ago, and was on my case straightaway, at first I thought Ok, she had the right to mention y lack of understanding, as no one helped me when I had started work to learn how to do my stressful job as a Support worker, there was no shadowing, I felt stupid when she pointed out all I was supposed to do, I was honest and told her the truth and said I wanted to my job well, it then became apparent that whatever I did was not enough, she would mention the fact I did not know how to do things infront of my co workers.this started to affect me and as I work shifts and have to do sleep ins, I found myself staying up very late to make sure everything was completed, then I could not sleep for worrying what she would say the next day.This started to affect my sleep patterns at home and my homelife as I was always worrying.Sometimes she would be nice, other times she would be chatty with all my co workers and snub me, I started to become anxious when I had to go to work, suffer bad migraines and be on edge all the time.A few weeks ago, I could not take any more and went to see my GP, she has signed me off work, but my manager phoned me, and came across as disbelieving and asked me what it said I was off work for, I had a complete melt down when I got off the phone as she said my performance was not what it should be, I tried to explain how her manner affected me without any success, she has contacted me since and left a voicemail, it was condescending and made me more upset and put me in a depressive state, which is now affecting me and my family. I am frightened I will lose my job but do not feel strong enough to go back as she makes me feel inferior and I get forgetful and confused when she bombards me with questions and tasks.I have never had any one make me feel so worthless and have always had excellent feedback from managers and usually get on well with people, I have no confidence now and feel worthless.I would appreciate any feedback as I am not sure if this is strong management or a form of bullying, I am supposed to phone her superior after I have seen my GP, I am too scared to, as I already know my GP does not think I should go back to work yet.

Our Response:
We really feel for you, this is not uncommon, but you have to try and take action to avoid a repetition of this and to preserve your mental health. Our article on Bullying at work gives some action points to follow, which we hope you will find useful.
SafeWorkers - 28-Aug-15 @ 9:58 AM
I am off work for stress and anxiety, which has developed into depression, my manager started about 11 months ago, and was on my case straightaway, at first I thought Ok, she had the right to mention y lack of understanding, as no one helped me when I had started work to learn how to do my stressful job as a Support worker, there was no shadowing, I felt stupid when she pointed out all I was supposed to do, I was honest and told her the truth and said I wanted to my job well, it then became apparent that whatever I did was not enough, she would mention the fact I did not know how to do things infront of my co workers. this started to affect me and as I work shifts and have to do sleep ins, I found myself staying up very late to make sure everything was completed, then I could not sleep for worrying what she would say the next day. This started to affect my sleep patterns at home and my homelife as I was always worrying. Sometimes she would be nice, other times she would be chatty with all my co workers and snub me, I started to become anxious when I had to go to work, suffer bad migraines and be on edge all the time. A few weeks ago, I could not take any more and went to see my GP, she has signed me off work, but my manager phoned me, and came across as disbelieving and asked me what it said I was off work for, I had a complete melt down when I got off the phone as she said my performance was not what it should be, I tried to explain how her manner affected me without any success, she has contacted me since and left a voicemail, it was condescending and made me more upset and put me in a depressive state, which is now affecting me and my family. I am frightened I will lose my job but do not feel strong enough to go back as she makes me feel inferior and I get forgetful and confused when she bombards me with questions and tasks. I have never had any one make me feel so worthless and have always had excellent feedback from managers and usually get on well with people, I have no confidence now and feel worthless. I would appreciate any feedback as I am not sure if this is strong management or a form of bullying, I am supposed to phone her superior after I have seen my GP, I am too scared to, as I already know my GP does not think I should go back to work yet.
Tigerlily - 27-Aug-15 @ 1:15 AM
This is a great website, so congratulations to those who put this together. I understand bullying and its affects very well, because I too was once a victim. My case was so severe, I was unable to return to work afterwards. Health issues followed, lack of support in the home front continued and financially I lost everything to my name. The company did not even admit fault which was another negative for me, because I was left without any form of compensation. I learned something about bully victims, often but not all, they come from broken down families so they are already open to personal injuries. They are afraid for various reasons, yet they are also brilliant workers with fantastic personalities that just draw people in and this is another reason they get bullied.Unfortunately anxiety stopped me from speaking up, from taking the stand and being heard. The internet has changed all that.
Miss C - 4-Jul-13 @ 11:42 PM
What do I do? I just found out at 12am midnight from a senior colleague that I'm being transferred out to another outlet. Earlier during the day my Ariel manager told my other colleague whom I'm close to that she is going to be transferred to another outlet. They did not give us a week in advance notice to acknowledge us. They told us one day before. Then I found I'm getting Transffered also. And recently they just hired two new workers. I asked my store in charge for the reason off the transfer off my colleague and myself but I had no replies even though the whatsapp had early shown "last seen". My store I'm charge has also been the cause of my other two ex-colleague quitting. Who do I complain all this to? I'm so stress by my store inc bathe sometimes that I cry. I'm workin in retail line.
Ela - 3-Feb-13 @ 5:16 PM
I would like to know that the job i do as a supervisor, to where myself and other supervisors who has to work a shift pattern. The rota tells us that we work Monday to Friday on the one week with Saturday and Sunday off, can the employer change your days of rest to enable you to work and to have days off in the week at such short notice. Or if the rota states that your days off are on that day, then you must take them. I just want to know if this is against the law for any employer to move your days off round to cover other shifts within the department. We always seem to lose our weekend off when we come to that rota line.
disadan - 21-Jan-13 @ 9:05 PM
Bullying and harrassment is a serious issue for workers.Bullying is the name I give to despicable actions that one person inflicts on another.Unfortunately, bullying and harrassment is not against the law in most places, hidden away under obligations to occupational, health and safety, (in Australia maybe incorporated into the Fair Work Act, 1999 so keep a look out for developments).Though policies cannot always prevent it, they serve an important purpose when they provide targets with avenues for *reporting incidents*obtaining counselling*receiving advice about options.The workplace should be aware of the latin term "respondeat superior", making the employer responsible for the behaviour of the offender and therefore subject to claims for psychological injury.
Blackcat in Oz - 12-Mar-12 @ 1:10 PM
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