Workplace bullying – The silent epidemic and the long term psychological damage.

On 14 July 2009, a 52-year-old employee of a telecoms company in Europe killed himself, leaving behind a note blaming “overwork” and “management by terror”. He wrote in his suicide note: “I am committing suicide because of my work. That’s the only reason.”

There are people who choose to end their life, not because they were weak, but because they identify their self-worth with how they are perceived and treated at work and they could not not take the public humiliation

Workplace bullying has been around for a long time. But nobody could pin point what it was. It was considered an acceptable style of  management which was never challenged for the fear of losing the job.

What exactly is workplace bullying and why is there is so much media attention in recent times ?

Workplace bullying is a repeated event of harassment, intimidation, ridicule, belittling in an attempt to get rid of the target from the workplace. Bullying always existed in corporate life. It is getting increasing media attention as more people have shared their experience on many platforms. The health harming long term effects of bullying is being researched and understood only in the recent few years. Bullying causes psychological damage and symptoms are not visible hence often goes unnoticed.

The profile of the bully: The bully is often a supervisor who lacks any soft skills and only knows to manage people by threat and humiliation. They often have a good rapport with senior management and the go to person to deliver projects in ambitious timescales and often considered as someone who kicks butt to get their job done.

Both men and women are known to be bullies. Often, men bully men and women bully women.

The profile of the target who is being bullied:  A bullied target is usually a very hard working, self-starter individual who puts his/her head down and does the job and is usually popular and has a good track record.

The target usually is a very quiet person who does not engage in office politics or brown nosing.

How does the target get bullied ?

The target is often confused why s/he is being reported as under-performance as they seem to be doing a good job. The target is told s/he lacks certain skills and her performance will be monitored closely. An e.g. ‘You don’t have business knowledge.’ ‘XYZ gave negative feedback about you.’ – which is often not true.

This leads to a series of micro-managing, excessive supervision, constant nit-picking, public humiliation which goes on until the target feels stressed and starts losing interest in his/her job.

The bully also setups by hiding information for the target to perform his job, does not involve the target in important meetings and discussions related to the project.

The bully also reports to management about target’s under-performance and blames the target for trivial issues and something the target is not in control of.

The bully then uses intimidation tactics to get the target to accept his/her short comings.

Why targets do not take any action against bullying ?

The target then starts to believe it was his/her fault and s/he needs to improve her performance. The target suffers from low self-esteem and confidence. His/her health starts deteriorating, has sleepless nights, loses concentration and focus and which affects her/his ability to do the job efficiently.

The target also gets isolated from work colleagues and left with no one to share his/her concerns about what is happening to them.

Why is bullying not the same as tough management ?

Competent managers will never resort to bullying. S/he knows when to draw the line between management and bullying. The bully is usually someone who hides his/her own insecurity by bullying the target.

How does workplace bullying affect their targets health ?

Many targets do not even realize that they were bullied. Bullying takes a severe toll on mental health of the target.

This happens for the first time victims. Self doubt and low confidence affects their ability to look out for another job. The target then lives with guilt and shame for a long time.

S/he cuts off socially from people and show distrust in people. Family life suffers. Family members notice the change in personality and they can’t figure out what went wrong with their loved ones.

People who are bullied for a long term suffer chronic depression, complex P.T.S.D. and debilitating anxiety and panic attacks. When a worker suffers from P.T.S.D., the workplace becomes a war zone.

The target also feels guilty for allowing the bullying to control them. However, while it happened there was nothing much they could have done about it.

Workplace bullying is rampant in Information Technology too

One would make the assumption that in knowledge industry such cases of bullying should be rare. However, bullying is rampant. Constant pressure to deliver in ambitious timescales. Lack of information, training to do the job. Lack of appreciation. Often blamed in public for minor errors. I.T. workers also get reported for under performance for no fault of theirs.

Why did I write this article ? 

I don’t want anyone in the world to go through the experience that I have. I am advocating healthy workplace for the future and willing to join the efforts of institutes like Workplace Bullying Institute to eradicate bullying from workplace.

People who work for business entities have their right for respect and dignity. A workplace is a place to work as the name suggests and not a war zone.

I would like to see a safe and healthy workplace and is on top of my agenda once I launch my start up.

If you think you have been bullied at work and would like to seek advice how to handle the situation, feel free to contact me.

What is being done about workplace bullying globally ?

I will update this post soon.

28 thoughts on “Workplace bullying – The silent epidemic and the long term psychological damage.

  1. Thank you very much for posting this. Your experience will resonate with far too many people reading this.
    Thankfully this is being recognised and discussed far more in recent years but we still have some way to go. The workplace is where we spend on average 7 – 10 hours per day, 5 days per week, so 35 – 50 hours every week. Factor in the time getting ready for work, travelling to work, travelling home from work and winding down (if that is possible) after arriving home.
    In essence, a huge amount of time.

    If one is being subjected to psychological torture on a daily basis in the workplace the negative impact is devastating and long-term.

    I will be organising a networking event in London, UK where everyone with an interest or who has been affected by bullying or harassment at work can come together and create a unified voice. If you are interested then drop me a line.

    The old adage: United we stand; divided we fall – springs to mind.
    These negative behaviours at work should be outlawed and staff need protection. We can all make a difference and I applaud you for your contribution to the cause.
    Thanks again!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks so much for your message. I was surprised very few commented or liked this post as I am guessing nobody has experienced it and I wish they never do.
      Co-incidentally my experience of bullying was in London. I was scared to come out of my flat and meet people. I still get flashbacks and angry outbursts. I have to support my family hence went for my own business which failed..later met with a car accident and I am now back with this blog to educate people about workplace hazards and also share lessons on entrepreneurship. I will surely launch my start up this year.
      Hopefully, if I succeed then my voice will be heard. Also, I hope that I can spread awareness like you are doing.
      The fight must go on. Thank you very much for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. True Evang. I did not know it when I experience. It was after many months of research I discovered this and now there are many organizations in Australia and US that are fighting for strong anti-bullying laws. I will post more here soon.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for posting this. I guess it happens in any workplace as competition, drive to succeed and get ahead, win and ensure security take precedence over human kindness, worth and value. I hope that many of those experiencing it recognizes that their life is worthy and no career or job is worth taking our life for. I hope they get the help they need. Also those who bully others may realize the pain they are causing others. I pray for your success in your venture. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Holy shit! ‘You don’t have business knowledge.’ ‘XYZ gave negative feedback about you’ , these were the exact words used by my previous boss!
    I didn’t realize I was a victim of bullying! I always felt that something was seriously wrong with me and I was even genuinely trying hard to improve myself by working overtime. This eventually took a toll on me and became a strong point in my decision of quitting!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understood your situation. I have a story to share about my bullying. Do you remember that Shilpa Shetty racism issue. It was my employer that sponsored Big Brother. The founder of my employer was a fantastic man but people who worked for him were racist. I was bullied, laid off…returned to the same employer and worked for someone else who thought I was the best project manager in the company.
      You got to remember, they are insecure people who bully you. Stay strong. This bullying will end and I will fight for the cause.
      Do search for Workplace Bullying Institute founded by Dr. Gary Namie. Also, there is a book titled ‘No Asshole Rules’ by Robert Sutton.
      I wanted to write a book too. However, I will just blog about Bad Bosses and impact on individuals and economy sometime this month to spread awareness.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Omg! This is such a an important message you are spreading… I didn’t realize that I was being bullied at my workplace until now! I’ll need some time to digest this new piece of knowledge that I had just now! I’ll definitely connect with you soon …

        Liked by 1 person

    1. The fight has just begun. The perpetrators around the world need to know the impact of their action on individual’s, their career and families.
      Once, I launch my start will be a relentless broadcast to all CEO’s on linkedin to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for all.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for this post!
    You’re right, the person doing the bullying is insecure, I realized that when a colleague of mine started bullying me a month ago.
    I am taking the necessary steps to handle it in a mature and professional manner. I will wait for your update on this post.
    Also, I am interested in learning about your drive for a healthy workplace 🙂 Good luck in that endeavor!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment Abi. I am glad you recognized it is happening to you. You are in control of the situation and make it clear to the bully that you won’t tolerate the behavior.
      Dr. Gary Namie has founded Workplace Bullying Institute to spread awareness. It is not easy to fight as bullying has become an accepted management style.
      I shall try and educate people on linked-in after I complete my start up project.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Actually it’s not even someone in management who is doing the bullying. I thought it was something I did that resulted in this situation but regardless it is unacceptable for it to be a daily occurrence. I reported it to my manager and if things don’t improve I plan to report it to HR but I don’t know the process yet. I am hoping there will be a change and we can be better colleagues moving forward. I hope this helps anyone who is confused about what to do about it if it’s also happening to them.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Things won’t change. HR usually are not very helpful. Plus bullying is not illegal in most countries. I think an e-mail to the bully, copied to your manager may solve the problem before it escalates.


    1. Sure… I know you are in I.T. It seems to be very common. I was in IT too as a Project Manager. I was bullied by people in business, management, co-workers. They know we are vulnerable. Any project issue, they can threaten us. I tolerated them just for my family. In the end suffered from PTSD and cut off from the world.


      1. That’s quite sad. I hope you are now able to recover from it. Things are progressing well. I tried to be nice and make that person feel included and not threatened or become insecure. One day at a time… 🙂


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