Bullying at work deteriorates mental health of victims so much that they become anxious, leaving them less able to stand up for themselves and more vulnerable to further harassment, warns a study.
The research suggests that as workplace bullying is a vicious cycle, employers should not only crack down on workplace bullies, but also help victims gain the skills to cope with difficult situations.
“Examples of bullying at work include harassing, offending, or socially excluding someone repeatedly over a period of around six months,” pointed out Ana Sanz Vergel from the University of East Anglia in Britain.
“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,” Sanz Vergel added.
The research team tested their theory on 348 Spanish employees. Participants were interviewed about their experiences of bullying and assessed for anxiety and vigour.
Bullying at work grinds victims down and make them an ‘easy target’ for further abuse, the findings showed.
“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,” Sanz Vergel said.
The study appeared in Anxiety, Stress & Coping: An International Journal.