The boss humiliates you in a meeting before your co-workers. Your secretary gossips about you in the lunchroom spreading rumours about calls you receive. Your co-worker deliberately withholds crucial information that you needed to successfully complete a project. All of these are forms of workplace bullying, which is itself one of several types of workplace violence. And it's not just you. The International Labor Organisation says workplace bullying has become so widespread that it represents the greatest threat to success in the workplace in the new millennium.
Definition of Workplace Bullying
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Workplace bullying is a form of harassment, typically one that is repeated on a regular basis, carried out against a particular person and consists of behaviour done with the conscious intent of harming the target. Examples of workplace bullying include gossip, excluding someone socially, name-calling, threats, intimidation, constantly changing work guidelines, requiring more work for one person than that expected of others, making offensive jokes, setting a person up for failure, teasing, yelling or using profanities, unfairly refusing a person's requests for leave or training, intruding on a person's privacy or interfering with a person's personal belongings.
People who have been bullied in the workplace experience a wide range of problems. Many experience post traumatic stress disorder, in part because people self-identify so strongly with their work. Prolonged bullying may cause panic attacks, depression, stress breakdown, poor concentration, insecurity and compromised memory. Victims may become irritable, obsessive, hyper-vigilant or overly sensitive. They experience mood swings, indecision or a loss of humour, and may begin biting their nails, grinding their teeth or a relying on such substances as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol or sleeping aids.
Bullied employees experience a wide range of physical effects. The World Health Organisation ties together workplace stress, much of which is caused by bullying, to chronic fatigue syndrome. Bullying also causes stress, anxiety and a lowered resistance to such things as colds, coughs, flue and fever. Other reported symptoms include high blood pressure, migraine headaches, pains in the back and chest, hormone disturbances, physical numbness, irritable bowel syndrome, thyroid problems, skin irritations and ulcers.