Guest post from ELB’s employment lawyers in Birmingham.
The impact of workplace bullying and harassment is not only felt within the confines of the workplace, but can have a significant ‘ripple-effect’ on family members, including children and grandparents, according to a recent survey.
High levels of stress
The study, by parent support charity Family Lives, found that over four fifths of survey respondents felt that workplace bullying had affected their family life or close relationships.
Respondents also said that workplace bullying created high levels of stress that was felt inside the workplace and at home. This stress manifested itself in feelings of being withdrawn, unable to wind down, hopelessness, anger, depression, and in extreme cases led to panic attacks and having suicidal thoughts.
Looking at the findings of the survey in a bit more detail, they show that:
- 96% of female respondents felt that they were being bullied as a result of their gender compared to 86% of male respondents,
- 95% did not feel that their employers or place of work had sufficiently robust anti-bullying policies in place,
- 81% stated that workplace bullying affected their close relationships and family life outside of work,
- 81% believed that the current financial climate and shortage of jobs is preventing individuals from standing up to workplace bullying,
- 75% stated that they had experienced verbal bullying by employers and/or colleagues,
- 69% had witnessed other colleagues being bullied,
- 63% of respondents felt that they had been the victims of social bullying, and
- 55% of bullying victims had sought medical advice or counselling.
The Family Lives survey investigated what respondents who had experienced bullying did to tackle the situation.
Worryingly, 44% of respondents were resigned to doing nothing and were simply prepared to ‘put up with it’. A further 38% said they had discussed their workplace bullying experiences informally with friends or other colleagues, and 30% had sought medical treatment.
When asked to identify the perpetrators of bullying:
- 45% indicated that their line manager was responsible,
- 25% identified a senior manager or CEO,
- 28% a fellow colleague, and
- 32.2% indicated that bullying had taken place for longer than a 12 month period
Impact on family life
Family Lives says that its findings are supported by current academic research, which suggests that workplace bullying leads the victim to become preoccupied with the bullying, and leads to changes in the victim’s ways of communicating with their partner.
These changes could involve the victim feeling the need to constantly talk about their experiences, or, on the opposite end of the scale, the victim withdrawing altogether from their partner and the rest of their family.
“Bullying in the workplace can be a very devastating, distressing and isolating experience,” said Jeremy Todd, Chief Executive of Family Lives. “It can leave recipients feeling very low and anxious at the thought of going to work and facing the individual or group that may be subjecting them to this.”
It can also take its toll on the whole families’ health and wellbeing, he said.