Mental Health & Bullying: Bullying in the Workplace
Mental Health & Bullying: Bullying in the Workplace

Mental Health & Bullying: Bullying in the Workplace

By: Brittney Rutledge
MS Forensic Therapist

Have you ever been willfully excluded or ignored by a coworker? Has your work performance intentionally been sabotaged or undermined? Has a co-worker ever given you constant and unwarranted criticism? If so you have experienced workplace bullying.
Bullying can affect physical and emotional health, both in the short term and later in life. Those who are bullied are at increased risk for mental health problems, headaches, and problems adjusting to school and the workplace. Bullying also can lead to long-term damage to self-esteem. It can lead to physical injury, social problems, emotional problems, and even death.
Research probing the link between bullying and mental health has focused on how being bullied contributes to the development of other issues like anxiety, depression or suicidal ideations. But, a new study suggests the relationship goes both ways, finding those with mental health disorders are three times more likely to be the bully.
Adults who are bullied by their peers often suffer even worse long-term mental health outcomes. Bullying used to be considered an issue mostly impacting children, but that’s no longer true. More and more adults report experiencing mistreatment and hostility at work, turning into a costly problem for employers. Workplace bullying involves multiple, repeated, intentional acts of aggression, hostility, social isolation, or disrespect. These acts often happen in person but also can occur through email, text messaging, and social media. Between 15-19% of working adults are victims of workplace bullying. Perpetrators are usually male (70%) and in supervisory positions (61%), while 60% of the targets are women.
Certain work environments are more likely to foster bullying, such as those with high stress, demanding workloads, and those in which employees feel high levels of job insecurity or boredom. Workplace bullying can harm a company’s reputation, weaken employee morale, and strain finances. Hostility at work is often a significant source of physical and emotional stress, leading to higher health care costs and absenteeism. Individuals mistreated at work can experience increased rates of the following: Insomnia and other sleep problems, high blood pressure, headaches, anxiety, pain and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. People who are in hostile work environments are more likely to leave the company, be absent from work, and feel dissatisfied with their job.
Bullying results in companies losing more than $250 million every year. Workplace bullying costs business approximately $14,000 per employee in lost job performance and nearly 18 million workdays are lost each year. Bullying is a manageable problem; despite its cost employers can take action to stop workplace bullying. Rather than turning a blind eye, there are effective ways to eliminate workplace bullying. First, we must acknowledge that workplace bullying exists, is real, and is a problem. Being dismissive and unsupportive only exacerbates the problem. Secondly, we must not normalize unacceptable and bad behavior. Lastly, we must foster a positive and supportive work culture, so employees that have been bullied feel safe in raising incidents with their supervisors and HR specialists. Many coworkers feel ashamed or embarrassed about being targets of workplace bullying and are afraid to report incidents.
Bullying is not always preventable, but employers can significantly reduce the incidents and create a healthier work environment for all. We must all remember that being bullied is not a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of life; it has serious long-term consequences. It is important for schools, health services, and other agencies to work together to reduce bullying and the adverse effects related to it.


Highland-Clarksburg Hospital is a private, non-profit mental health hospital located in Clarksburg, WV. HCHI offers services for youth, adults, and forensic patients, all suffering from mental health problems. For more information about Highland-Clarksburg Hospital, visit or call 304-969-3100. Keep up-to-date with our activities and events by following our Facebook page:

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