Addressing workplace bullying

Businesspeople bullying a colleague at officeBullies are not just found in the school yard or playground. Sadly, childhood bullies often grow into adult bullies, bringing their destructive tendencies into the workplace. In fact, 60 million Americans are affected by workplace bullying, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI).

WBI defines workplace bullying as repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating and prevents work from getting done.

The WBI 2017 National Survey found:

  • 19% of Americans are bullied; and another 19% witness it
  • 61% of Americans are aware of abusive conduct in the workplace
  • 70% of perpetrators are men; 60% of targets are women
  • 61% of bullies are bosses, and the majority (63%) operate alone
  • 40% of bullied targets are believed to suffer adverse health effects
  • 29% of targets remain silent about their experiences

The stress-related diseases and health complications associated with prolonged exposure to the stressors of bullying range from hypertension to gastrointestinal problems to chronic fatigue. Anxiety, depression, sleep disruption, loss of concentration, mood swings, and pervasive sadness and insomnia are also common symptoms.

WBI provides the following suggestions for dealing with workplace bullying:

  1. Address the issue. Always respond in a professional manner.
  2. Create a record. Write down the details of each incident; you may need this for Human Resources.
  3. Seek out other victims. There is strength in numbers when documenting a problem.
  4. Take stock of your workplace culture. Are bullies promoted, punished, or unpunished?
  5. Seek professional help. If you feel emotional or psychological harm, seek help from a mental health professional or your company’s Employee Assistance Program.

Need additional guidance?

For clients who enroll in MHN’s Employee Assistance Program, MHN can help. Our management consultants can provide professional guidance and support for managing difficult workplace situations, troubled employees and job performance issues. Our consultants have backgrounds in professional counseling, human resources and business, allowing them to offer the insight, assessment, feedback, and action plans that are right for your managers and employees. MHN’s services include management consultation, job performance referrals, onsite critical incident response services and Department of Transportation referrals. To learn more, please call 1-800-327-7526 or email

This article is for informational and self-help purposes only. It should not be treated as a substitute for financial, medical, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice, or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified professional.

Managed Health Network, LLC (MHN) is a subsidiary of Health Net, Inc. The MHN family of companies includes Managed Health Network, MHN Services, and MHN Government Services. Managed Health Network is a registered service mark of Managed Health Network, LLC. All rights reserved.




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Gabriel Padilla