The residual impact of bully culture
Original Publication Date: April 17, 2016; Edited and Republished December 3, 2022
There is a lot of discussion about the impact of workplace bullying on the target and the organization. Most discussions of workplace bullying do not speak of the long-term effects it has on targets, especially those who are forced to work in aggressive environments.
The effects of workplace aggression can last for years, affecting both a target's professional and personal lives. One of the outcomes of workplace violence is increased suspicion and mistrust. It is also not uncommon for victims of workplace bullying to become paranoid, feeling as though they are being watched or judged constantly. Continual abuse in the workplace causes the target's work to be unnecessarily scrutinized and where they continue to be blamed for workplace incidents. For example, if a worker has suffered long-term bullying via emails and cyber aggression, every time they hear their email notification, they may wince. They assume that each email will be another attack on them. Thus, even something as simple as checking emails can cause unnecessary stress and emotional distress for the worker.
Apathy is another consequence of workplace bullying. In an effort to cope with workplace violence, some targets become emotionless, detached, and indifferent. Apathy results from a lack of response from the organization and co-workers to allegations of workplace aggression. In order to cope with the pain and emotions of workplace violence, targets learn to distance themselves from the violence. As a result, they become less responsive to the organization's needs.
A target also becomes immune to the surroundings and the aggression they are experiencing. After some time, the target develops a tolerance for aggression, and it becomes a normal part of life. Therefore, what might seem inappropriate to an observer is part of daily work life for a target. For example, a target may become accepting of profanity aimed at them because it has happened for so long without any consequence. However, most of us know that swearing at a colleague is never acceptable.
Each of these responses to bully culture has an impact on the target's personal life as well. Targets spend all of their emotional momentum trying to survive the workplace violence. Their personal lives suffer as a result. Suddenly, a dynamic individual can become a different person due to the emotional trauma they experience at work. An aggressive workplace can encircle and traumatize a target on a personal and professional level, resulting in trauma and devastation.
Bullying cultures have traumatic effects on workers. It can be beneficial to seek out therapy or counseling to help process the feelings associated with bullying, as well as to develop the necessary skills and strategies to cope with any residual effects. Additionally, it can be helpful to find a support system in family or friends, or to join a support group for those who have experienced similar situations. It is also important to make sure you are taking care of yourself and engaging in regular self-care activities. This could involve getting plenty of rest, eating a healthy diet, engaging in physical activity, and setting aside time for activities that you find enjoyable. It is important that you find the the support that you need to heal and to continue to grow.