Workplace bullying: ''Every incident has never left my head. I will never get over it'

AuthorÁine Kenny
Published date23 November 2021
Publication titleIrish Times: Web Edition Articles (Dublin, Ireland)
The problem is costing the economy a quarter of a billion euro per year in sick days and staff replacements, according to a study from NUI Galway. And, more importantly, bullying in the workplace is having a profound psychological impact on those who are facing a tormentor daily.

Numerous studies have shown that victims of bullying are more likely to experience mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Bullying can even affect physical health. Those who experience workplace bullying are 1.6 times more likely to experience cardiac health issues, according to a 2018 study from Denmark.

The first port of call for those being bullied at work is to go through the company's internal complaints mechanism. While most Irish companies should have an anti-bullying policy, there is little research into how these policies are being implemented on the ground. It is also very difficult and costly to get recourse through the courts according to legal academics, who say more needs to be done to enable people to take action against bullies and employers.

Two women who were bullied in the workplace spoke to The Irish Times under the condition of anonymity about how bullying affected their life. Both say their workplaces did nothing to stop the bullying, and it began to spiral outside of the workplace, having long-lasting effects.

Loyal service

One woman who worked for a company loyally for numerous years told The Irish Times that bullying in her workplace took over her life. One of her superiors began targeting her. She says he shouted at her multiple times.

He also claimed she had a poor work performance, and intimidated her. "He was erratic, aggressive and temperamental . . . he would shout in my face. I would go to work with a knot in my stomach."

She has experienced panic attacks, and has nightmares about returning to work. She claims that the workplace failed to protect her. She has been on sick leave for a few years, per the advice of the company doctor.

She has also lodged grievances and gone through the company's internal procedures, with which she is not satisfied. "The abuse and disrespect I've had over the years . . . he's left me with shame about what happened. When bullying happens when you're a child, you can go to your parents or teacher for help. When you're an adult you can go to no one, it's a lonely place."

She says the bully in her workplace targeted different people, until they either quit or were moved to a different department. In all her working life, she has never encountered bullying before. "It's tolerated in this workplace. Every one of the incidents have never left my head. They haunt you. I will never get over this."

Mental health

Another woman who has also experienced bullying while at work says it severely affected her mental health. "It's absolutely horrific. The effect it has on you is unbelievable."

One of her superiors also targeted her. She said he shouted at her and belittled her numerous times. "I thought he was going to hit me. He was shouting into my face. It's just dreadful. Nobody will listen to us, they say we have no witnesses, despite the fact I was coming out of work crying."

She adds that most companies have...

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