Bullying in the workplace can take many forms, but psychological bullying is one of the most insidious types. This type of bullying can be tough to spot, and even tougher to deal with, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
In this article, we'll discuss how to constitute psychological harassment and what steps you can take to protect yourself from it.
According to a recent study, 44% of American workers have experienced harassment at work. 1
Psychological harassment is any repeated or vexatious behavior that causes psychological stress or suffering. This unwanted conduct may include things like threatening or intimidating behavior, repeated name-calling or put-downs, and purposeful isolation.
While one-off instances often are not considered bullying, repeated behavior or a single serious incident that has a lasting impact can constitute psychological harassment.
Psychological harassment at work can take many forms. Whatever the specific form it takes, psychological harassment is always designed to make the victim feel uncomfortable, threatened, or afraid. Here we list a few most common examples.
Intimidation at work is characterized by one employee feeling threatened or harassed by another. Intimidation may be overt, such as threats or verbal abuse, or it may be more subtle, such as undermining an individual's work or limiting their opportunity to grow within the company. In extreme cases, intimidation can lead to physical violence.
Micromanagement is when a manager or supervisor closely controls and monitors an employee's work. This can involve everything from checking in too frequently to offering constant criticism. It can often be evident in a hostile work environment where there is a lack of trust between managers and employees.
Social ostracism is the act of excluding someone from social or work-related activities. It can be overt, like when someone is explicitly excluded from a meeting or project, or it can be more subtle, like when someone is constantly left out of office social events.
Psychological harassment at work can have a number of deleterious effects on both the individuals involved and the company as a whole.
Emotionally or verbally abused employees are more likely to suffer from negative effects on their psychological integrity - they may have anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Their physical integrity may be compromised too - they may experience headaches, stomach trouble, and sleep disorders. In extreme cases, workplace harassment can even lead to suicidal ideation and self-harm.
When faced with emotional harassment, victims may become preoccupied with it, leading to poorer work performance. Additionally, the stress and anxiety caused by psychological harassment can impair cognitive functioning, making it difficult to think clearly and make good decisions.
When workers feel unsafe or uncomfortable at work, they may start skipping days or coming in late. In some cases, they may even quit their job entirely. The above-mentioned report found that 34% of surveyed individuals have left their job because of unresolved harassment issues. This absenteeism and higher turnover rates can be costly for businesses.
Psychological harassment at work can take many shapes and forms, from subtle snubs to overt threats. It can be difficult to deal with, and it often goes unnoticed by employers. However, there are several things you can do to prevent psychological harassment in the office.
To define psychological harassment, consider the intent of the behavior in question. If the behavior is designed to intimidate or humiliate another person, then it is likely to be considered harassment. Additionally, the frequency and severity of the behavior are also important. If the behavior is ongoing and has a detrimental effect on the victim's mental health, then it constitutes harassment.
This means creating an environment where employees feel comfortable speaking up about their experiences. Open communication can help to identify problems early on before they escalate into more serious incidents. In the previously mentioned report, it was found that 85% of employees are more likely to report harassment if they have an anonymous channel, therefore, managers should create safe and open paths of communication.
While it is important for employers to take steps to prevent workplace bullying from happening in the first place, it is also essential to provide employees with training on what constitutes workplace bullying and how to identify it. Employees should be made aware of the company's policies on workplace harassment and should know how to report any incidents that they witness or experience.
When it comes to mental harassment in the workplace, it's important to take action immediately.
48% of American workers have witnessed others experience harassment at work. This shows that the signs are usually easy to spot. If an individual suddenly becomes withdrawn or unengaged with their work, it may be a sign that they are feeling intimidated. Another red flag is if an employee starts making frequent mistakes or exhibiting unusually poor performance. This can be a sign of anxiety or stress caused by harassment.
If you notice any of the above-mentioned changes in a coworker, take the time to talk to them and see if they are okay. If you're not sure whether what you've witnessed constitutes harassment, trust your gut and initiate the conversation anyway to gain clarity.
When you witness mental harassment at work, it is important to confront the bully in a professional manner. Approach the bully and calmly explain that their behavior is not acceptable. It is important to remain calm and collected during this conversation, as getting angry will only escalate the situation.
Only 50% of survey workers in the previously mentioned study have reported harassment. If you feel like you are being harassed at work, it is important to report it as quickly as possible:
There is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on the country and legal system in question. Unlike physical harassment, which leaves visible bruises, psychological harassment can be harder to detect and may not be apparent to outsiders.
Despite the serious impacts of this type of bullying, however, in the US, there is no federal law that specifically prohibits psychological harassment.
Therefore, it is important for workplaces to have their own policies in place to protect employees from this type of mistreatment.
In the United States, for instance, psychological harassment is not a crime. However, there are a few exceptions. For example, if the harassment takes the form of slander or libel, then it may be possible to sue for defamation.
Additionally, if the harassment is part of a pattern of behavior that constitutes stalking or sexual harassment, then it may be possible to bring criminal charges.
Finally, if you suspect that you are discriminated against (bullied due to a protected characteristic such as race), you may be able to take legal action.
Emotional harassment from a boss can take various forms, including:
Dealing with an emotionally abusive coworker can be difficult. It is important to remember that you are not alone and that there are steps you can take to protect yourself:
1 All Voices, 2021. The State of Workplace Harassment 2021. https://www.allvoices.co/blog/the-state-of-workplace-harassment-2021
2 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. https://www.eeoc.gov/youth/how-file-complaint
3 The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. https://www.acas.org.uk/handling-a-bullying-harassment-discrimination-complaint