University of East Anglia study: Workplace bullying can make targets more vulnerable to future abuse

A new University of East Anglia (U.K.) study of 348 workers indicates that the experience of workplace bullying can make targets more vulnerable to future abuse.

In a media briefing, Dr. Ana Sanz Vergel, UAE business school lecturer and co-author of the study (published in Anxiety, Stress & Coping: An International Journalabstract here) summarizes the findings and explains some of their implications:

This study shows that the relationship between workplace bullying and the psychological impact on victims is much more complex than expected.

…Workplace bullying leads to poor health because the victim is exposed to a very stressful situation – resulting in anxiety and lack of vigour. We wanted to see whether deteriorated health could make the employee an easy target for bullying. For example, the victim may have less energy to respond to difficult situations and therefore receive less support from colleagues or supervisors.

…We found that being exposed to workplace bullying leads to deteriorated mental health and decreased well-being. But at the same time, showing anxious behaviour puts the victim in a weak position and makes them an easy target – leading to a spiral of abuse.

We are by no means victim-blaming here. Clearly employers need to have strong policies against workplace bullying. But training programmes to help victims learn coping mechanisms could help to break the vicious cycle.

Here’s yet more evidence of the need to provide more effective assistance to those who have experienced workplace bullying. Therapy, counseling, and coaching are all potentially viable options, especially if we can do a better job of educating practitioners about the effects of work abuse and options for addressing it. In addition, as I’ve suggested before, perhaps we need to introduce resilience training for those entering the workforce, especially in fields such as health care and education where bullying is common.

8 responses

  1. I absolutely love your posts that I received these emails however truth and fact beling I have just left the job that I’ve been at for 15 years due to constant bullying by management owners, and Vp’s
    Even though the articles I have received have made me feel a little better the fact is it all starts at the top

  2. I strongly agree to your update. I have watched a dear co-worker have absolutely no support against the bullying she has endured for several years now. Reporting the bullying did absolutely nothing and management turned a blind eye and she resigned from her position. Sadly all to often this type of behavior is accepted in government workplaces. Your articles are always uplifting and informative to all being bullied. My hope for all of us in this situation is to keep positive and hope for legislation in all 50 states.

  3. Yes education about how to deal with a bully may help some people in certain stituations. I had extensive training in how to deal with a bully and never ever thought a bully would get the best of me. I used all the skills I had learned to no avail. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how strong or healthy you are. Bully’s can do horrific damage when they split the team and start mob bullying. Personally I think CEOs, Vice Presidents, HR, principals, doctors and managers need the education more than anyone. Like the person above my comment stated, it starts at the top. I think those at the top actually need to be held to higher standards and should be fired on the spot if they bully an employee. I have zero tolerance for bullying. If that were the case I then think you might see some changes. Like your article stated, bullying has long term affects on an employee’s health and these people need to be held accountable. Their actions are life changing for most survivors.

  4. I left my healthcare career after five years ago after putting up a protracted fight. Given the prevalence of bullying in healthcare, the futility of the effort I expended, and my reduced resilience as a result, I decided that my risk tolerance would not support another attempt at employment in that sector.

    I am fairly certain that the bystanders who witnessed my efforts are less likely to complain about bullying as a result of my efforts, which only serves to expand the problem. Building resilience in targets is a “control at the worker” health and safety strategy, and should be the last line of defence. Employers need to be held accountable for mitigating the risk BEFORE employee resistance is eroded.

    • Totally agree. However stepping up to end the injustice ends up with each side saying the other is at fault. Look at the articles about toxic workplaces/bosses and articles on texic employees.

      I find that speaking openly of the experience helps educate people. As it starts the discussion, people become less willing to remain silent about it.

      For me, the mobbing pain is still real (I lost 4 years at a workplace). I don’t think bullying is limited to one sector. it can hapoen anywhere, we just need people to understand and NOT tolerate it. At the moment, Bullying is not something that people speak comfortably about. People skirt it, they say things like “you were not treated right” or “it was just a weird period of time.”

  5. Bullying, mobbing and harrassment is meant to degrade our own self worth. Bullies deep down, know that we are our

    • Own worst critics. It’s intentionally meant to hurt us or diminish out confidence. Once the seeds of doubt is planted, we send out unconscious messages which gets picked up by others!

      Thank you David – your posts have made me reflect more about bullying & I am at a point of speaking out about it. I find for me, it’s the only way to silence that nagging voice of doubt in my head. Hearing the perceptions if others (such as friends or former coworkers), helps me to see my reality.

      • JL, the most important thing is your own well being. If speaking out about bullying is part of that process, then it’s a good thing for you. If not, then you should not feel obliged in any way, to yourself or to others. It’s about what helps you get to a better place.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: