Stand Up Against Bullying

Mental Health Workers Need To Understand Workplace Bullying

Mental Health Professionals Workplace Bullying
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Original Post Published on October 24, 2016; Edited and Republished June 16, 2020

Workplace bullying is extremely traumatizing to the target. Targets often utilize employee assistance programs and seek mental health help in order to cope. As such, mental health practitioners need to receive training on workplace bullying to better help targets.

It is a struggle for targets to identify exactly what they are experiencing because most workers do not equate work with abuse. Nor do they fathom that they will experience bullying at their place of employment. Therefore, it takes time to label what targets are going through. Mental health practitioners can help targets recognize and name what is happening to them. To do this effectively, mental health practitioners needs to clearly understand the complex nature of workplace bullying and recognize that other mental professionals, such as social workers, can be active aggressors perpetuating violence on their peers. They can experience workplace bullying and they can be witnesses. Mental health professions are not immune from being affected by workplace bullying.

Mental health practitioners frequently provide suggestions to their clients experiencing bullying like they would give to someone having workplace conflict. They may encourage victims of workplace bullying to confront the bully, tell their supervisor, or even file a complaint. In workplace bullying situations, these course of actions can increase the violence and retaliation for targets, thus making their work experience much more difficult.

Mental health practitioners frequently provide suggestions to their clients experiencing bullying like they would give to someone having workplace conflict. They may encourage victims of workplace bullying to confront the bully, tell their supervisor, or even file a complaint. In workplace bullying situations, these courses of actions can increase the violence and retaliation for target, thus making their work experience much more difficult.

A better course of action for mental health professionals is accurately assess the situation and to help targets develop a safety plan at workThis should include identifying at-risk times and activities where the target is most likely to be victimized, such as meetings. The safety plan should incorporate coping mechanisms for high-risk times including identifying supportive witnesses, developing key words and phrases to help diffuse situations, and ways to get away from the aggressor if the target is in fear of their personal safety. This can help minimize the fear experienced by the target and can decrease the workplace violence.

Understanding the continued trauma that targets experience is vital information that mental health practitioners must have in order to help the target cope and manage what is happening to them. Workplace bullying has detrimental effects on a target’s personal and professional life. Mental health professionals should work with targets to develop effective coping mechanisms for reoccurring violence. Bullying influences every aspect of a target’s life including work habits, family life, friendships, physical health, and mental health. Targets are dealing abuse at work and trying to manage the impact that persistent workplace aggression is having on the rest of their life as well. They also question their own work abilities and why no one is taking the workplace abuse seriously. This can sometimes be more detrimental than the actual aggression.

Mental health practitioners need to be careful on how they broach the subject of leaving and realize leaving may not be an option. Most targets need their job to support themselves as well as their family. The consequences for their career and financial situation may not be something they can live with. Leaving can be difficult especially when the target knows that they are not the problem in the workplace. Mental health professionals need to respect the target's right to self-determination but also help the target see the long-term consequences of an abusive work environment. This is a very fine line.

Targets need mental health practitioners who understand workplace bullying. They need support and needs their stories heard and believed. Mental health practitioners should help the target rebuild confidence in their professional skills. This will allow the target to deal with their current work situation as well as make future decisions about their job.

If you are a mental health professional and need training in workplace bullying, please contact me immediately to ensure you helping targets of workplace bullying.