How do employees cope with bullying?

In recent years it has been shown the bullying in #workplace causes high levels of burnout, physical symptoms of stress, and turnover intention, as well as lower levels of job satisfaction and organizational commitment. However, these behaviours may vary according to different personalities and psychologies.

Workplace bullying is defined according to four criteria.

  • Firstly, it is the experience of negative acts which may be work-related such as gossiping about someone within the workplace.

  • Secondly, it should be experienced repeatedly over a period of time, rather than as a one-time event.

The acts of bullying acts must be experienced at least weekly, for 6 months or more. So it should be not only repeated but persistent. Finally, there must exist a power distinction between the perpetrator of the negative acts and the target.


Coping with the bullying by adopting strategies to mitigate its negative effects is one of the behaviours seen at bullied people. However, there is a distinction between active coping, or problem-focused, and passive coping, or emotion-focused.


Victims of bullying are categorized into two groups. The first group is conducted by the victims through self-labelling where individuals identify themselves as being bullied and the second one is formed through behavioural measures based on individual’s experiences of negative acts in terms of frequency and over time. While this subjective perception provides insight into the experience of workplace bullying, it is likely that some people who do not label themselves as being bullied, yet experience the same negative behaviours, are not identified.


The victims of bullying have been found to report lower organizational citizenship behaviours, higher counter-productive work behaviours and longer-term psychiatric distress and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. Moreover, people classified as experiencing severe or pervasive bullying reported higher levels of psychological strain, lower levels of pleasure and higher worrying at work as well as poorer sleep quality than those who experienced negative acts only sometimes or rarely.


Identifying oneself as a victim of bullying is likely to result in more negative outcomes than not identifying with this label. The victims that identify themselves may imply stigmatization and have negative connotations such as perceived weakness.


On the other hand, individuals who do not identify themself as bullied, can consider bullying as repeated criticism with respect to your work and effort and therefore might perceive this to be an aspect of performance management. Therefore they might increase their performance in order to avoid these criticisms.

Source: Bullying at Work: Cognitive Appraisal of Negative Acts, Coping, Wellbeing and Performance.
Hewett, Rebecca 2016
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