Bullying in the workplace is not only actions that can cause physical harm, but also words that affect workers psychologically and spiritually.

What Is Workplace Bullying?

There are many different perspectives on the issue of bullying in the work environment, of which three perspectives can be mentioned as follows:

First, workplace bullying is considered to be situations in which workers are harassed; abused; insulted; socially excluded, and placed in a disproportionate position, while the person is unable to protect themselves from repeated and repeated ethical violations over a while.

Second, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), workplace bullying are incidents in which individuals are exposed to repeated physical and psychological harm over a period of time by the perpetrators.

Third, according to the definition of the Workplace Bullying Institute in the US, bullying is repeated acts of abuse (including verbal abuse) that are harmful to health by one or more perpetrators.

Thus, bullying in the workplace is not only actions that can cause physical harm, but also words that affect workers psychologically and spiritually.

Recognizing Workplace Bullying

According to Microsoft statistics in September 2020, up to 38% of workers in 32 different countries around the world have been involved in bullying as victims, or as perpetrators of these acts or a witness. Of these, 15% of respondents in Vietnam said they had witnessed bullying in their organization.

Some common bullying behaviors include:

  • Spreading malicious rumors, gossip, or innuendo

  • Making offensive jokes verbally or via email

  • Excluding or isolating someone socially

  • Constantly criticizing or cursing

  • Intimidating, physically abusing, or threatening abuse

  • Tampering with other people's personal belongings or work equipment 

  • Invading the privacy of others by pestering, spying, or stalking

  • Undermining or deliberately impeding other's work

  • Constantly changing work principles

  • Hiding necessary information or intentionally providing false information at work

  • Assigning unreasonable tasks/workloads, or setting impossible deadlines to the detriment of others (causing unnecessary pressure)

  • Underwork – creating a feeling of uselessness

  • Disregarding opinions

  • Giving unwarranted (or undeserved) punishments

  • Blocking applications for training, leave, or promotion

Causes Of Bullying Behaviors In The Workplace

Many different reasons lead to bullying behavior in an organization or business. Often, a person becomes a target of bullies because he or she stands out at work or is well-liked by everyone - as opposed to the perpetrator. Bullies frequently struggle with their low self-esteem as they feel threatened by better performers at work, and they feel inferior, and this causes them to bully others. Furthermore, perpetrators often target popular colleagues, or the most liked colleagues at work because bullies always feel their social status is threatened when they see them.

Additionally, the personality type of both the perpetrator and the victim plays an important role. Studies highlight that bullies often struggle with negative emotional states such as anxiety, insecurity, or anger, in other words, they are highly aggressive and have low self-esteem. Besides, many bullies tend to choose vulnerable victims they can intimidate more easily than more confident colleagues - perhaps new employees, younger colleagues, or anyone else who is shy or reserved. Targeting such people allows perpetrators to manipulate events and actions in their favor, shifting the blame for their incompetence onto vulnerable victims.

It is worth noting that work pressure is also one of the causes of bullying. A high workload can lead the bully to take advantage of peak times to bully coworkers aiming to be the most excellent at work. Besides, company policies and requirements cause employees to unhealthily compete with each other, which is a suitable environment for bullies. Finally, some bullies target coworkers prejudicially based on the race, gender, or even age of the victim, as they tend to bully people who are different from them.

Consequences Of Workplace Bullying

In fact, bullying is a common problem worldwide, causing many negative consequences not only for the mental and physical health of victims of bullying but also for the development of organizations. 

Impact On Mental Health

First of all, psychological effects are the most common consequence of being bullied. Research shows that workers who are victims of workplace bullying are struggling with stress, isolation, self-doubt, and insomnia. Additionally, many studies unanimously agree that there is a link between workplace bullying and suicidal thoughts, in addition, its psychological effects on victims include stress, anxiety, and panic attacks. Workplace bullying affects both men and women by feeling fatigued and lack of vigor all the time which may lead to depression.

Impact On Physical Health

Besides mental health problems, workplace bullying also has many physical consequences. Research has shown that cardiovascular sickness is expanding by approximately  60% more in victims of bullying than in workers who are not bullied in the workplace. This is a significantly high rate showing the serious consequences of workplace bullying. Moreover, bullying can cause high blood pressure, ulcers, neck pain, and fibromyalgia in victims. Besides, several studies have also demonstrated the relationship between bullying and other health problems such as migraines, irritability, bowel syndrome, and back and chest pain.

Impact On Organizations

Workplace bullying has many negative consequences for organizations' job performance. Victims' work performance drops significantly as they lose focus and have difficulty making decisions. Furthermore, bullied workers tend to be absent from work, which reduces productivity. Therefore, the quality of customer service will decrease, affecting their motivation. The impact of workplace bullying can vary from person to person and depending on the type of bullying, and the severity of the consequences depends on how the victim perceives the situation.

How Should Leaders Respond To Workplace Bullying?

The first strategy is for managers to implement professional policies and working procedures to help prevent bullying behaviors in the workplace. Having clear and specific regulations regarding work ethics and future issues greatly reduces bullying in the workplace. In addition, this also helps build an equitable working environment - if employees violate policies, regardless of position, they will be appropriately punished.

Policies and programs to prevent harassment and violence in the workplace should:

  • Be developed by management and employee representatives.

  • Apply to management, employees, customers, independent contractors, and anyone with a relationship with the organization or business.

  • Present in precise, concrete language; provide clear examples of unacceptable behavior and working conditions; clearly state the consequences of threatening or committing bullying.

  • State the applicable regulatory requirements; clearly state the organization's position on workplace bullying and its commitment to preventing workplace bullying.

  • Outline the process by which preventative measures will be developed and implemented; clearly state procedures for investigating and resolving complaints.

  • Encourage reporting of all incidents of bullying or other forms of harassment and violence in the workplace.

  • Outline the confidential process by which employees, including witnesses, can report incidents and to whom; ensure confidentiality during the resolution process.

  • Assure no reprisals will be made against employees who report bullying; commit to providing support services to victims.

  • Offer a confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to enable employees with personal problems to seek help.

  • Commit to meeting the preventative training needs of different levels of personnel within the organization; commit to monitoring and regularly reviewing the policy.

Depending on the needs of each business, the Vietnam - France Psychology Institute designs business psychological care service packages with appropriate scales, subjects, implementation stages, and implementation topics. Contact us to discuss your business's need for psychological support services right at HERE.


[1] Tác động của việc bắt nạt nơi làm việc đối với hành vi công dân tổ chức – nghiên cứu ở các doanh nghiệp tại TP. HCM.

[2] Bullying in the Workplace.

[3] Bullying in the Workplace: The Psychological Causes and Effects of Bullying in the Workplace.

[4] Understanding the Reasons for Workplace Bullying.



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