How does bullying at the workplace affect mental health? Best ways to deal with it.

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Each one of us wants to live in an ideal harmonious world and want to believe that bullying is non-existent in our organization, however the reality differs. As Indians, we are habituated to someone with authority using a loud voice towards the younger ones/subordinates and so understanding if we are being bullied becomes confusing. We are conditioned to believe if someone raises their voice it is either out of concern or it is because we are at fault. However, in a professional world when another human raises their voice or use mean sarcasms, manipulating statements that make us believe we are good for nothing, we start questioning multiple times the conditioning thoughts and the reality that we are experiencing. But we yet, fail to understand what is happening? And what do we do about the same?

Bullying is only thought to be common place in schools or colleges, however we rarely consider workplace bullying and its prevalence. The definition of Workplace Bullying by Wikipedia looks something like “Workplace bullying is a persistent pattern of mistreatment from others in the workplace that causes either physical or emotional harm. It can include such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, and physical abuse, as well as humiliation”.

India Today Web Desk published a survey on 20 December 2020 conducted by which revealed that around 55% of Indian employees are bullied at work which can lead to mental health and other issues.

The survey covered that the mental health is at greater risk for the employees being bullied. According to the survey, other than depression, shame, guilt, lowered self- esteem as a complain panic attacks or experiencing breathing difficulties are quite common as well.

Although considered to be hierarchical patter this may also take place among the peers. Let us look at the red flags of workplace bullying:

  • Using loud voice & obscene language
  • Often criticising, belittling, creating a feeling of uselessness
  • Punishing for unjustified reasons
  • Vandalizing work related materials or personal belongings
  • Socially excluding
  • Pressurising a person to behave in a way that one may not want to
  • Mockery, using offensive words quite often
  • Unrealistic deadlines
  • Giving incomplete or wrong information, purposefully.

Let us look at some mental health related impacts bullying at workplace has on an employee:

  • Experiencing anxiety when thinking of work
  • Experiencing helplessness
  • Withdrawing from colleagues
  • Difficulties in sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of motivation to work
  • Trouble concentrating on work
  • Experiencing anger/ frustration towards work or people at workplace
  • This can also lead to developing mental health concerns like depression, anxiety disorder, eating disorder, substance use disorder etc.

Let us look at the strategies to deal with workplace bullying:

Pause & Think

It may be a difficult situation to be in but using some grounding techniques to calm yourself down in order the get a better perspective helps us in dealing with the situation in the best way.

This will also help you understand if the bullying was a one-time incident or a long term pattern.

Talk it out

Talking may be an uncomfortable task but talking will help. You can either choose to confront the person in a polite manner or can seek help from your higher authorities or H.R. When you choose to confront, seek help from a colleague you trust to accompany you as that builds up our confidence and give data with regards to the incidents. While you address the concerns with the H.R. & higher authorities, focus on the impact on work and your overall wellbeing. Remember to discuss it in a calm and professional manner.

Journal it

Journaling helps you keep a track of your emotions and incidents. Make notes of the timeline of incidents and also about its impact on you. This will help you recall detailed information when you are ready to confront.

If possible, try to communicate with the bully through mails as you may have a written record as well. This will help you defend yourself, in case of any blame game from the other end.

Focus on Self-care & seek help

Bullying does have major impact on a person’s overall well-being, importantly on the mental wellbeing. To indulge in self-care, try using some mindfulness based activities, spend time with friends & family but most importantly try reaching to a mental health professional/ psychologist
who can guide you with a way pertaining to the situation.
If nothing seems to work, look out for more opportunities.

If you are experiencing bullying or you know someone who is going through this, encourage them to contact the nearest psychologist/therapist or mental health clinic. Mpower Centre in Mumbai, Bangalore & Kolkata is one such place wherein you can receive help to deal with bullying. You can avail mental health counselling at any of these centres from 10 am to 6:30 pm. Mpower also provides workshops/ trainings to make workplace a little empathetic and a safe space to work.

Also read, How has competition and performance pressure at work impacted mental health? How to manage workplace pressure?

How does change of workplace affects mental health?

6 ways to initiate a conversation on mental health at the workplace. Find a therapist in Bangalore to seek help.

What are the causes of stress in the workplace?

How to deal with depression at workplace?

Kriti Pahuja
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