Stress and Workplace Bullying

Extreme stress can have serious and lasting psychological and physiological effects, described in more detail here. Everyone with a responsibility for management of risks to health and safety - others' and their own - needs to know that bullying is a health hazard, and so it should be addressed in any risk assessment and managed with the same diligence as one should apply to a physical hazard. Where humans are present, the risk of bullying cannot be completely eliminated, but it can be combated at source and/or replaced with less dangerous behaviour.

If you're being bullied, you need to be aware of the risks to your health. If you think your mental health might be affected by bullying, we suggest seeking help from a counselor (recommended by your own GP rather than the business that employs your bully), in preference to a psychiatrist. In the writer's experience, counselors (or "psychotherapists") tend to listen to their client's experiences and guide them toward self help or "talking therapies" which are appropriate for stress induced, temporary conditions, whereas psychiatrists seem to be more specialised in dealing with conditions thought to be inherent in their adult patients as a result of childhood trauma or what drug companies call "chemical imbalance".

If you get a kick from playing practical jokes, teasing, poking fun at colleagues, or giving someone a dressing down in front of others, or ranting at them in private either because you think they've made a mistake or because it makes you feel better, or setting a colleague up to get disciplined for something they haven't done, or perhaps if you see office life as a game of wits that you're determined to win every time, regardless of the hand you've been dealt, be aware that your behaviour is a tangible health and safety risk to others.

HR managers, take this on board. If one of your colleagues is off with long term stress related illness, this is probably why, especially if they have complained about bullying. Take them seriously. Act properly. Do not tolerate psychological abuse of your staff. Outside the confines of your workplace, society aims to convict abusers and rehabilitate their victims. Please don't have it the other way round in your workplace, just to keep your job. Bullying destroys careers, lives, marriages etc. If you tolerate or deny or cover up psychological abuse in your organisation, you become one of the abusers.

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