6 Ways Workplace Bullying Affects Family Life

Learn how employees and their families are impacted by workplace bullying


Workplace bullying is a serious issue that impacts workers in the United States every day. As a result, it should come as no surprise that the issue also has an impact on family life. After all, it would be very hard for any employee not to bring work issues home. But the pressure of a bullying boss or an office mean girl can make family life extremely stormy.

In fact, a study by a Baylor University researcher found that workplace incivility can be so extreme that the victim brings it home where it impacts the wellbeing of the family.

For instance, the study’s author Merideth J. Ferguson, Ph.D., says that the targeted worker’s partner may pick up more the responsibilities at home. What’s more, the satisfaction of the marriage also could be impacted.

Here are six other ways that workplace bullying impacts family life.

Displaced of anger and shame

When the anger a target of workplace bullying feels cannot be leveled at the workplace bully, the outlet for these feelings often takes place at home. This displacement of anger also could be directed at drivers on the way home. But more than likely, the abused worker is going to take their anger out on those closest to them. This anger often erupts over trivial things and the victim of workplace bullying explodes in anger over something small. Additionally, the shame that comes with workplace bullying can cause the victim to become angry as well and lash out at others in shaming or critical ways.

Emotional withdrawal

Targets of workplace bullying are often overwhelmed by the emotional abuse they experience and exhausted from trying to cope with the bullying. As a result, they often come home and shut down. Abused workers might skip dinner, go to bed without talking and even skip family functions or kids’ activities because it all seems too much to handle.

This, in turn, harms the other family members because the victim is not present and available and they do not always understand why.

Pretending things are fine

Some victims don’t want to worry their partners, especially if there are already money issues. So they keep silent about the abuse and pretend that everything is fine. They also may pretend things are fine because they want to try to put the kids first and minimize their own issues in the interest of others. However, if the marriage or partnership is close, the partner will pick up on the subtle indications that something is wrong. As a result, they may begin to suspect different issues, such as infidelity or illness, if the victim does not share what is happening.  When this happens, the tension and resentment within the home increases.

Fear and anxiety

It is not uncommon for victims of workplace bullying to experience anxiety. As a result, they bring these feelings home with them. These intense feeling are then felt by every member of the family.

Additionally, anxiety can lead to health-related issues down the road, which also impacts the family.

Violence at home

While not all victims of workplace bullying will resort to violence at home, it does increase the likelihood of abusive and aggressive behavior at home. Coping with the ups and downs of family life is not an easy task and when one parent is already stressed, it can cause a lot of pressure on an already fragile person. As a result, they take out their frustrations on the ones they love and care for most. However, workplace bullying is never an excuse for violence and if a family is experiencing this, outside help should be sought immediately.

Lack of empathy

Sometimes when spouses tell their partners about the workplace bullying they are experiencing, their partner lacks empathy or suggests trivial ways to fix the issue. Or worse, spouses do not believe that their partners are being harassed at work. These experiences can increase feelings of loneliness and exacerbate the pain and humiliation the victim is feeling.

Final Thoughts

If you or a family member is experiencing workplace bullying, it is important that the family unit is supportive. If this cannot be accomplished on your own, families should get a counselor involved. It’s also important to brainstorm ideas on how to address the bullying situation and explore options for finding a new job, especially if the victim of workplace bullying has tried confronting their bullying boss or reported the office bullies to personnel.

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