Stand Up Against Bullying: A blog to help stop workplace bullying
Mental Health Professionals Targets

Workplace Bullying is Devastating for Targets: Here is Why.

an image of two balls balancing on a seesaw
24 June 2021
The workplace bullying environment consists of layers and layers of dysfunction that a vulnerable worker or target must learn to maneuver to survive. In order to do so, a vulnerable worker must know what they are up against and why the bully culture is so devastating for them.

Leadership is one of the main concerns for vulnerable workers. At times, the workplace bully is a supervisor or leader in an organization. There is no one to address the issue or stop the bullying because it is being done from the top down. Not having any avenues of hope to intervene can be challenging for the vulnerable worker.

Another issue is that leadership does not always know what workplace bullying is let alone how to intervene effectively. It is not included in academic education or leadership training. This inability to fully understand the bully culture results in organizations and leaders not believing vulnerable workers. In fact, vulnerable workers are frequently identified as being the problem in the workplace and the bully is rewarded. This re-victimization by leadership causes additional trauma for the vulnerable worker.

More often than not, leadership manages workplace bullying like they would conflict. This approach encourages the vulnerable worker to seek out their aggressor and work out the issues between the two of them. In most cases, the vulnerable worker has already tried this, and it has failed. Confronting the aggressor causes the bully to become aggravated and they retaliate against the vulnerable worker. Calling out the aggressor causes the bullying to intensify and becomes more subtle. The vulnerable worker continues to be harmed by bullying but it may be more difficult to confirm. Confrontation makes an already untenable situation more painful and problematic for a vulnerable worker.

Being a target of workplace bullying is emotional and causes unsurmountable distress. Workplace bullies are master tormentors. As a result of the continued trauma, vulnerable workers may respond in ways that are understandable but may be harmful to them in the long run.

One of these is becoming defensive. Vulnerable workers are regularly put into positions where they feel the need to defend their work and actions because of the systematic attacks by the aggressor on their professional work. These types of behaviors reinforce the very narrative that the bully has fabricated about the vulnerable worker and the one that the target is trying to circumvent. If a vulnerable worker becomes defensive or loses control of their anger, the bully has ammunition to use against the vulnerable worker in the future causing additional pain.

It is difficult to put into words, the hurt that a target of workplace bullying experiences on a regular basis. This is because there are so many different avenues of abuse and trauma caused by bully culture. Understanding this, is a first step for vulnerable workers.