Bullying at work

Specialty of Psychiatry

What is workplace harassment?

Workplace harassment or workplace bullying refers to behaviour which makes a worker feel intimidated or offended in a working environment. In many cases, this can lead to the worker terminating their job, and it can have a significant effect on their mental health. Examples of bullying in the workplace include spreading rumours, gossiping, undermining others, treating them unfairly, and purposefully preventing career progression from happening. While bullying is not protected by the law, harassment is, and harassment occurs when the above actions occur based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, or disability.

In some cases the bullying happens between co-workers, and in other cases the perpetrators are the superiors or bosses, where the end result may be to pressure a worker to terminate their employment.

Symptoms of workplace harassment

Some of the symptoms that the harassed worker will suffer are:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Stress
  • Lack of confidence, security and decision at work
  • Insomnia and trouble sleeping
  • Anxiety, anguish, irritability, fatigue, depression and hyper vigilance
  • Personal devaluation and feeling guilty
  • Aggressiveness
  • Rejection of social relationships

Causes of workplace harassment

In many cases the perpetuators of harassment are bosses or superiors with the help of employees of lower grades. Harassment also tends to occur between peers of the same rank, while the harassment of an employee towards a superior occurs infrequently.

The perpetuators, in many cases, are those with some sort of psychopathology, or toxic, narcissistic and paranoid personalities who seek to take advantage of any situation that allows them to undermine their colleagues and thus compensate for their own inferiority complexes.

In most cases, victims of workplace harassment are workers who arouse envy among their peers because they stand out in a positive way or have a kind character.

In other cases, the reason behind the harassment can be to make the worker in question leave their job.

Prevention of workplace harassment

It is very difficult to prevent the occurrence of harassment at work by colleagues. Fostering an environment of companionship and respect at work can go a long way towards the prevention of bullying in the workplace.

Treatment for workplace harassment

The victim of workplace harassment may need psychological therapy to overcome their feelings of depression, lack of confidence and low self-esteem, among others.

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