Sometimes, the office can feel uncannily like a playground. That’s because, although the attire and activities are much more grown up, there’s still that one person. You know the one. The wise guy in the meeting who instigates, humiliates, and intimidates others. He’s the office bully. And as it turns out, he’s much worse than you thought.
Workplace bullying can be so demoralizing to its victims that they’re unable to cope with future bullying, according to a new study from the University of East Anglia.
“We found that being exposed to workplace bullying leads to deteriorated mental health and decreased well-being,” UEA researcher Dr. Ana Sanz Vergel said in a press statement. “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.”
According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), on-the-job bullying is defined as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons by one or more perpetrators” that is considered threatening or humiliating or otherwise interferes with the victim’s ability to work. It’s an ugly phenomenon that has affected 27% of American workers, according to a survey from WBI.
In-office bullying is not only stubbornly prevalent, but can even be rewarded. According to one survey, the office jerk has better job security than the rest of us, in part because others are afraid to stand up to them.
For employers, this new research from UEA suggests a need to not only police workplace bullying itself, but give its victims the tools to cope with it as well. Given its track record in combating anxiety, perhaps a bit of mindfulness meditation could be part of that regimen? It couldn’t hurt.