Impacts of workplace bullying and harassment on mental health

February 11th, 2022
In: Trauma

J reported that he has been being harassed by his co-worker for the last two years as retaliation after a prior minor conflict. The patterns of harassment involve humiliation, intimidation, offensive behaviors and statements, spreading of groundless rumors, and so on. The bully tries to intimidate J by constantly giving J nasty looks and gestures as if he is going to hurt him, or waiting for J to fail at something so he can report it to the manager. J does not feel safe in front of the bully, as he is targeted. The bully would brag about his power, that he could harm J in different ways or get him fired. At the same time, the bully ostracizes J when they are out in public. The bully makes sarcastic comments about J in front of others for whatever J says or does. The bully would also show aggression and rude behavior to J by constantly staring him down or interrupting his conversations with others, and he would yell at J and dump J’s belongings into the garbage can. While the bully is spreading false rumors he is extremely articulate, knowing how to talk right to ensure that he is plausible and likable.


Lately, J finds himself being more emotional and tearful, and when talking or thinking about his work he gets shaky, feels waves of anger on his body, and has developed poor motivation and isolation. He also noticed that he has been feeling nervous, anxious, difficult to relax, and is easily irritated. He feels extreme frustration when he does not feel powerless instead of safe at work. He tried everything he could to stop the harassment but in the end, he developed learned hopelessness. His main physical symptoms are tensed muscles, numbness, and tingling, feeling hot and chilled, physical weakness, lightheadedness, sweating, heart pounding, insomnia, nausea, diarrhea, shortness of breath, chest pain, and so on. He is completely withdrawn even from his wife, children, and friends. Soon after he was diagnosed with panic attacks and depression, and he is now on sick leave.


Many scholarly research studies claim that often individuals who had experienced workplace harassment also experience trauma, and often these individuals develop mental health issues such as PTSD, anxiety/panic attacks, depression, and so on. Yet not many people are aware of the trauma of bullying and harassment even while they are right in the middle of the abuse and trauma. Thus, it is crucial to know the criteria of bullying and harassment.


The Government of Canada website suggests asking yourself the following questions to determine whether it is harassment or not: What was the context of the incident? Was the behaviour improper? Were you offended by the behaviour? Did the incident occur within the scope of company policy? Did the incident occur repeatedly? What is the intention of the individual for engaging in such kind of behaviour? Is the behaviour reasonable and acceptable by any others? Are you were being singled out and treated differently than your colleagues? Is the incident related to your work performance? Are you being criticized regularly even though your work performance is the same as before? In addition, it is important to differentiate whether the incidents are part of normal exercise of management’s right to manage the company, a workplace conflict, or a single or isolated incident of inappropriate remarks.


Here are some examples of harassment:


  • Being intimidating

  • Criticizing, insulting, blaming, or personal humiliation

  • Excluding or ostracizing an individual

  • Spreading rumours

  • Offensive jokes

  • Physical attacks, yelling, screaming

  • Removing areas of responsibility for no real reason

  • Giving excessive workloads, setting the person to fail to meet the demands

  • Giving too little work or giving jobs far below the person’s capability

  • Intimidating by monitoring one’s jobs

  • Showing threatening behaviours

  • Destroying personal belongings in order to intimidate

  • Sexual harassment, especially abusing power as an employer

  • Making sexually suggestive remarks


Are you struggling with the trauma of bullying and harassment? Do you want to be healed, re-empowered, and develop resiliency? I am here to help you. Please contact me.



Website of Government of Canada (Harassment and violence)

Cromie, W. J. (2007). Verbal beatings hurt as much as sexual abuse: Can lead to depression, anxiety, and worse. Retrieved from

Adams, A., & Bray, F. (1992). Holding out against workplace harassment and bullying. Personnel Management

Djurkovic, N., McCormack, D., & Casimir, G. (2004). The physical and psychological effects of workplace bullying and their relationship to intention to leave: A test of the psychosomatic and disability hypotheses. International Journal of Organization Theory and Behaviour


Jin Broughton
New Hope Counselling
9115 207 St, Langley, V1M 2P5

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