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Workplace Bullying and Its Implications on Organizations

Discrimination is one of the major challenges that organizational leaders face within the workplace. Workplace bullying refers to any acts intended to intimidate a colleague perceived by the oppressor as weak. In most cases, bullying within the workplace applies in a pattern that is directed at specific individuals. Any form of discrimination within the workplace is harmful, spiteful, and offensive to the victims. If not detected early and addressed properly, workplace bullying has the potential to derail the ability of an organization to achieve prolonged success.

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It is important for employers to ensure that they provide employees with a safe and inclusive workplace environment giving everyone an equal opportunity to achieve both individual and organizational goals. Psychologists argue that bullying is often verbal or psychological in nature, thus victims tend to suffer for long due to the lack of tangible evidence (Carbo, 2017). There is an urgent need to stop workplace bullying because it affects the ability of victims to give maximum input in their work, thus lowering productivity. In addition, organizations tend to lose their competitive edge because of mistrust among employees and high turnover rates.

Prevalence of Workplace Bullying

Identifying and managing workplace bullying should be a priority for organizational leaders. Studies have shown that a significant number of people have experienced workplace bullying at one point in the places they have worked, as either a victim or a witness (Cobb, 2017).

Workplace bullying is more prevalent in workplace environments characterized by intense workloads, unclear policies to guide the behavior of employees, poor change management strategies, lack of effective communication structures, as well as employees with low levels of their job satisfaction. In terms of gender, women are more prone to being victims of workplace bullying compared to their male colleagues. Existing federal and state laws in the United States provide some of the gaps that perpetrators of workplace bullying exploit to their advantage. The laws only offer protection to workers who show evidence of physical abuse or behavior targeted to members of protected groups such as those living with disabilities.

Examples and Early Signs of Workplace Bullying

Some of the notable examples of workplace bullying include targeted practical jokes, denial of requests for days off without valid reasons, excessive performance monitoring, unjust criticism, and being misled about work responsibilities (Dean & Shepard, 2017). Studies have shown that constructive criticism, and disciplinary action related to workplace code of conduct do not qualify as bullying as long as it does not humiliate or intimidate the involved parties (Carbo, 2017).

Psychologists argue that identifying workplace bullying can be a challenge owing to its subtle nature. One of the most effective ways of achieving such a feat is considering the views and opinions of employees about things that happen within the workplace. When most of the responses indicate a certain action or behavior as being unreasonable, then it may be identified as a form of bullying (Cobb, 2017). Early signs of workplace bullying include one being ignored by colleagues, being assigned duties outside one’s job description or training, a consistent pattern of personal or work-related items missing without a trace, as well as being asked to perform pointless tasks among others.

Implications of Workplace Bullying

According to psychologists, workplace bullying has several effects on the mental health of employees, which in turn affects the ability of an organization to achieve prolonged success and remain competitive due to reduced productivity (Gattis, 2018). Some of the notable psychological effects of bullying within the place of work include increased risk of suffering depression, suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem, needing time off work, and wanting to stay away from the workplace environment as much as possible (Curry, 2016). Workplaces with high prevalence of bullying tend to experience a number of negative effects that include high turnover rates, reduced commitment by employees, increased absenteeism, poor team dynamics, as well as loss of revenue necessitated by bullying investigations and legal costs.

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Transformational Theory in Managing Workplace Bullying

Bullying is a widespread challenge within organizations, thus the need to understand and manage it in an effective manner. One of the guiding principles of the transformation theory is the need to promote a consistent vision and a set of values that people can apply to understanding changes in their lives. Effective management of bullying within the workplace requires transformative leadership that focuses on developing social systems that help people in managing change.

This style of leadership aims at creating valuable and constructive change that influences followers into becoming leaders (Dean & Shepard, 2017). Its practicability is evidenced by a noticeable change in an individual’s behavior and attitude towards something familiar. In most cases, bullying within the workplace happens when there is inadequate monitoring across all organizational levels, thus creating room for dysfunction.

According to the transformational theory, bullying within the workplace can be identified using four parameters, namely regularity, persistence, aggression, and the power imbalance (Cobb, 2017). Regularity refers to the frequency with which a negative behavioral pattern occurs over a specified period. Persistence refers to the period within which the patterns manifest themselves, while aggression identifies and defines the notable negative acts. Power imbalance entails situations within the workplace where one employee controls or has influence over another. In instances of bullying, the person in a position of power instills fear and threatens their victims if they do not achieve their desired performance levels.

In order to achieve prolonged success, organizational leaders should comprehend that effective management of workplace bullying does not only apply using a top-down approach. This means that an employee can experience bullying from any colleague, regardless of their position within the workplace (Carbo, 2017). Bullying within the place of work applies in a downward vertical cycle, whereby a supervisor can intimidate a subordinate and vice versa. Additionally, bullying also happens between co-workers at the same level, as well as customers and organizational employees (Carbo, 2017). Understanding this cycle plays a pivotal role in handling cases of bullying because it is easy to identify the source of aggression.

Personality is one of the effective elements that can be applied in identifying victims and perpetrators of bullying. Quiet people with no peers within the workplace are easy targets for bullies. On the other hand, people who exhibit leadership and social confidence are less likely to be bullied because they are always around people (Dean & Shepard, 2017). This means that introverts who have a high degree of agreeableness are vulnerable to bullying.

On the other hand, extroverts are less likely to be bullied because they are proactive. Studies on personality traits have shown that people who repeatedly experience bullying within the workplace suffer from similar issues that include depression, insecurities, low self-esteem, and lack of confidence (Gattis, 2018). It is important for employers to engage their employees in development programs, which help in improving self-awareness.

Workplace Bullying from a Reward Theory’s Perspective

The reward theory plays a pivotal role in managing bullying within the workplace. Bullying can be considered as a life-changing event because it alters the perspective and attitude of victims towards various elements related to their work. Bullying has a reward for the perpetrator and understanding one’s motivation helps in establishing the source of aggression (Akella, 2020). Psychologists argue that it is necessary for organizational leaders to examine the workplace environment for any possible rewards that might be encouraging bullies.

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Studies have shown that in workplaces where bullying is prevalent, there is a high likelihood that bullies have identified gaps within the corporate culture that allow them to intimidate others without fear of suffering any repercussions (Curry, 2016). While some victims of bullying have the advantage of getting psychological assistance, others tend to deal with their trauma alone and end up being depressed. Such experiences lead victims to develop a negative outlook on life, thus lowering their productivity at work. This often happens when one does not speak about his or her experiences and continue working under toxic conditions.

Eliminating Bullies from the Workplace

For maximum productivity, employees need a healthy working environment that allows one to give maximum output. Since the effects of workplace bullying are mainly psychological, creating a good communication structure makes it easy for bullies to be identified and dealt with in a professional manner (Gattis, 2018). Eliminating bullies from the workplace helps to increase cohesion among workers, thus improving the dynamics of teamwork and promoting corporate values. There is an urgent need for organizational leaders to create employee development and welfare programs, which act as their safe avenues for dealing with work-related challenges (Cobb, 2017).

In addition, the programs promote healthy competition within the workplace because co-workers will stop seeing each other as threats. Employers should involve employees in team building activities, which play a pivotal role in building cohesion and increasing awareness among individuals involved in the workplace. Workplace bullying should be highly discouraged because it has many negative effects that lead an organization to lose its competitive advantage, which can take years to regain. Organizational leaders should focus on building a healthy workplace culture characterized by constructive feedback.


Workplace bullying is a vice that characterizes many workplaces in the contemporary world. This form of psychological aggression aims at degrading the targeted person within the workplace. Bullies often pick out individuals whom they consider as a threat to their progression within their workplace. Some of the common causes of bullying within the workplace include negative work environments, a dysfunctional corporate culture, and lack of effective communication structures. Workplace bullying has negative effects on victims and the organization as a whole. Victims tend to lose interest in their work, become overly anxious, and some can end up depressed.

This affects the ability of an organization to be competitive because of reduced productivity within the workforce, as well as high turnover rates. Organizations also tend to lose money due to the legal fees associated with investigating reported cases of bullying within the workplace. In order to manage bullying at work, organizational leaders should make an effort to understand the psychological dynamics that form the practice and are likely to be overlooked by the organizational values and culture.


Akella, D. (2020). Understanding workplace bullying: An ethical and legal perspective. Springer Nature.

Carbo, J. A. (2017). Understanding, defining and eliminating workplace bullying: Assuring dignity at work. Taylor & Francis.

Cobb, E. P. (2017). Workplace bullying and harassment: New developments in international law. Taylor & Francis.

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Curry, L. (2016). Beating the workplace bully: A tactical guide to taking charge. AMACOM.

Dean, P.J., & Shepard, M.D. (2017). The bully-proof workplace: Essential strategies, tips, and scripts for dealing with the office sociopath. McGraw-Hill Education.

Gattis, V.M. (2018). Bullied! : Coping with workplace bullying. Dissertation. Web.

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