ARTICLE: Health-Harming effects of Workplace Bullying - Know Bull! Australia :: Workplace anti-bullying website

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ARTICLE: Health-Harming effects of Workplace Bullying

Note: The following is an excerpt from Know Bulls! Report: Extent and Effects of Workplace Bullying

The health harming effects of workplace bullying has been well documented over the years, and Know Bull!s Extent and Effects of Workplace Bullying
report added to this growing body of information.

82% of survey respondents who had been the ‘target’ of a workplace bully, stated they suffered or been diagnosed with sleeping problems and depression. This was closely followed by anxiety, 76%, and constant fatigue, 58%. Of greater concern, is 5.5% (or one in twenty bully targets) experienced suicidal thoughts after being exposed to workplace bullying, while one in five (or 17%), were diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

And perhaps the most damning health harming effect of workplace bullying revealed by Know Bulls findings, is one in five (16.6%) of survey participants, who said they had known of, or worked with a fellow employee, who after being targeted by a workplace bully—later committed suicide.

Exposure to prolonged negative stress reults in injury
For targets of workplace bullies, the exposure to prolonged negative stress from incessant bully attacks will cumulatively result in psychiatric injury. In saying this —we don’t mean the target will experience some type of mental illness. Despite superficial similarity, there are distinct differences including:

  • Mental illness is assumed to be inherent, (internal), 

  • Psychiatric injury is caused by (external) forces i.e. something or someone else —denoting ‘liability’. 

  • An ‘injury’ is likely to get better—given time. 

The difference
Those who suffer mental illness exhibit a range of associated symptoms such as paranoia, schizophrenia, and delusions.

But not so with psychiatric injury, where the person will typically exhibit symptoms such as hyper-vigilance, hypersensitivity, obsessiveness, irritability, fatigue, and sleeplessness. 

Workplace bullies go to extraordinary lengths to evade accountability
By the time a bully target is showing outward signs of prolonged negative stress, such as depression, many workplace bullies will label the target as ‘mentally ill’. Workplace bullies go to extraordinary lengths to evade accountability for the consequences of their actions on others, and will even blame  the target for their own deterioration. Coincidentally, this tactic of ‘blaming the target’ is a well-documented bully defence.

The imperative for understanding the difference between an illness  and injury
Understanding the difference between psychiatric injury and mental illness is crucial, because many HR personnel, senior staff, and other workplace bully followers, enablers, and protectors, will erroneously believe the bully’s assertion that the target is mentally ill.

It's imperative that HR personnel and others understand that psychiatric injury health-related problems do not  exist prior to a bully attack—but manifest after the workplace bully ‘singles out’ the target.

Further, failure to consider that an 'assertion' of a target being mentally ill
—is no more than a ‘bully defence’could result in HR personnel and others being implicated as co-defendants in subsequent legal action that may arise.

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