Contrary to popular belief, bullying is not limited to kids. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, 19% of American workers are bullied and another 19% of workers witnessed a colleague being bullied. This workplace bullying wrecking ball is devastating careers, morale, productivity, retention, as well as derailing people’s health.

Workplace bullying is no laughing matter. Just ask a local college administrator, who asked not to be named. “My boss is verbally and mentally abusive, and your work is never good enough for her. You can do 99 things right, but she’ll ream you out with a wicked tongue lashing for your one mistake. Things got so bad that I went to a therapist for help,” she said. “An insecure woman, my boss compensates for her own insecurities by belittling and marginalizing me.”

If you’re unclear on what precisely workplace bullying is, it is best defined as when an employee is deliberately mistreated by a boss or other employee, in the workplace. Similar to children, the form of the abuse can be physical, verbal, or emotional. In any event, the stress-related diseases and health consequences from prolonged exposure to workplace bullying is real. Employees who are bullied may experience adverse health issues such as:

  • Depression or sadness
  • Anger or irritability
  • Worry or feel anxious or fearful
  • Have trouble falling asleep 
  • Have frequent headaches, stomach aches, dizziness, or other physical symptoms
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Skin disorders
  • Diabetes

To cope with bullying, an employee may:

  • Smoke 
  • Abuse alcohol or drugs
  • Miss or neglect work

“Work takes so much of our time, and a bully boss is never going to change,” says our bullied college administrator. “You have to take responsibility for your own health, so I started by first seeing a therapist.”

In addition to the strategies that her therapist gave her, she also uses daily exercise, yoga, and meditation to stay healthy and deflect from her bosses’ negativity. “In the past, I exercised inconsistently, but now, I make exercise a daily priority. It is literally, my lifesaver,“ she says.

Her exercise routine consists of a daily 45 minute to 1 hour power walk, 15 minute yoga sun salutation, and a 10 minute morning meditation.

While her strategies may not work for all, her methods are certainly worth a try. If you are the victim of workplace bullying, you must make your health your number one priority, and first you should make an appointment to discuss possible strategies with your primary care physician.

Secondly, you will eventually need to confront the situation head on, by having a serious talk with your boss about the bullying behavior and its effects on your mental and physical well being. If you work for a large company you should also alert your Human Resources department or contact your union representative if applicable.

While there is a risk in confronting your bully boss, you may be confronted with another assault or even lose your job. However, doing nothing will typically embolden the bully, continue the negative behavior, and increase your risks for illness.

Ultimately, you are not responsible for the boss bully’s behavior, but you do have a responsibility to yourself and you must take control of the situation by nipping it in the bud before it ruins your life, career and health.