The Bullying Epidemic in Healthcare and Steps to Eliminate It!

Workplace bullying is an epidemic, and the statistics we previously shared clearly shows this. Sixty-five million Americans are in the know-how that bullying happens, and almost half of them are direct victims of abusive behavior in the workplace. Its prevalence has become a common occurrence in everyday scenarios at work, with more than 70% of employers condoning it or explicitly sustaining it. Clearly, for the majority of US employers, bullying is low on the priority list of problems affecting their organization. However, workplace bullying can have a significant impact on the bottom line.

Bullying is any form of aggressive behavior where there is repeated intentional harm by a person of power to another of lesser power. It can be in the form of direct physical abuse, verbal abuse or psychological intimidation.

A large problem with bullying, if it is allowed to go on unchecked, is that it can become the social norm and affect the entire culture of an organization. The definition of conformity is a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behavior to fit in with a group. To understand how easy it is for strangers to conform to group pressure view this video that was done by the popular TV series Candid Camera.

A Select Few of the Signs that Bullying is Happening in Your Organization:

  • Repeated and unusually unfair criticisms
  • Teasing and bantering within the hearing of others
  • Deliberate sabotaging of an employee’s work or reputation
  • Aggressiveness in emails, texts, or in social media
  • Withholding due credit

For the individual victim, bullying is a form of repetitive and dangerous stress that takes its toll to negatively affect the physical, emotional and social well-being of the victim.

Physical Effects Include:

  • Palpitations, chest pain, and hypertension that predispose to stroke and cardiac arrest
  • Neurological signs such as incoordination, tremors, headaches and inability to concentrate
  • Episodes of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Decreased immunity resulting in frequent sickness and infections
  • Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Propensity to develop diabetes and even skin problems

The psychological effects of bullying are an assault on the target's identity, ego and coping mechanisms that usually fail over time, causing emotional torture.

The Effects of Bullying on Mental Health:

  • Severe anxiety that can escalate to panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Conflicting feelings of guilt from allowing oneself to be a target, and of obsession with retaliation that usually cannot be put into action
  • Feelings of extreme injustice especially when the institution takes the issue lightly or ignores the problem

These psychological burdens can have ripple effects and can open avenues for drug and alcohol abuse, as well as suicide. In fact, research shows bullying targets are twice as likely to commit suicide as those who did not experience any aggressive confrontation from a co-worker.

Statistics indicate that 27% of the workforce experience bullying and in healthcare that number is even higher. While all of the signs and effects listed above are true for healthcare what is very disturbing is that bullying also equates to reduced quality of patient care (particularly increased medical errors), increased expenditures and poor support systems.

Bullying in Healthcare Leads to:

Addressing Bullying in Your Organization:

  • Create a code of conduct regarding bullying. This code should include clear and concise descriptions of what acceptable and unacceptable behaviors are for handling conflict. It should also contain information on consequences of unacceptable behaviors.  
  • Involve employees in policy development. Involving employees in developing policies creates ownership of and responsibility for the environment they have at work. They are also more inclined to report bullying and to call out unacceptable behavior.
  • Conduct regular training sessions. These sessions should include the proper way to communicate/collaborate and the importance of showing respect to one another. There should also be training in diversity, stress, anger, and conflict management.
  • Provide easy access to communication and support systems. Describe a safe way for victims of bullying to document the behavior and provide immediate help for employees who exhibit bullying behavior while remaining clear that it will not be accepted in the future.
  • Regularly celebrate positive behavior. This can be done with a Bullying Awareness Week or providing rewards for acceptable conflict management and respectful behaviors. Encourage staff to speak out and provide a “safe person” who they can talk to when bullying happens.

ManageUP Provides Tools That Reinforce These Steps

Our platform for employee engagement is designed to enable employee feedback to help address the problem of workplace bullying with the following structure:

  • Built-in Communication and Collaboration tools that foster healthy teamwork and allow dispersed teams to virtually collaborate.
  • A Centralized Knowledge Hub that can house training videos and documentation on conflict management and how to communicate and collaborate efficiently and respectfully. Training sites and videos in diversity, stress and anger management can easily be accessed, and managers can track and ensure that essential training has been completed.  
    • The Hub can single source the latest Policies and Procedures on acceptable and unacceptable behavior and how unacceptable behavior will be handled. These can easily be viewed by anyone who has permission and those with access to the internet.
  • A Real-Time Employee Recognition System automatically recognizes employees for their accomplishments, innovative ideas, and ways to improve the culture.
    • SQUEEZE points are awarded to management and staff as critical operational tasks are completed in a timely fashion. Because the points are integral to the job, the subjectivity is taken away from one's contributions.
    • The Leaderboard compares points acquired by each employee and encourages healthy competition.
  • Ability to create Specialty Teams for regular celebrations such as Bullying Awareness Week allows the teams to easily collaborate and communicate and team members are rewarded for participating.

Download Key Employee

Engagement Statistics

Don’t let bullying take over your organization and affect employee health and morale. Remember social conformity can also have a positive effect on your workplace. Encourage and reward a healthy culture. Take the proper steps now.



The very real link between workplace bullying and suicide: Twice as likely to contemplate suicide

Workplace Bullying among Healthcare Workers

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How Bullying Can Affect Your Brain and Body

Psychological-Emotional-Mental Injuries

Bullying at Work: perspectives from Britain and North America

Addressing Nurse-to-Nurse Bullying to Promote Nurse Retention

Bullying in nursing and ways of dealing with it

Stop workplace bullying in hospitals