Bullying doesn’t stop at the initial attack. Abuse can in fact result in a chronic condition that may paralyze the recipient. Anxiety emerges in the form of intrusive, unwanted, and obsessive thought, which eventually leads to compulsive behavior. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a cognitive prison: a dark tunnel of repetitive rumination that hammers the target’s psyche.
A person who suffers from OCD is enshrouded by a pattern of sameness, shutting him or her off from experiences, people, and life in general. OCD is an overwhelming preoccupation. Like a never ending stream of cable cars, another crisis comes along as soon as a situation is resolved.
A macabre version of buzzing exists within OCD sufferers’ brains, creating a latticework of paranoiac hyper-vigilance. It’s a vicious cycle, with bullying potentially causing OCD, and OCD being a precursor of bullying.
If bullying does indeed contribute to mental disorder, then there is a dual impetus for companies to take proactive measures to prevent its occurrence. Despite however the high cost of stress-related health claims, few organizations have implemented measures to ensure peoples’ psychological safety. According to SHARP (2011): “The health problems experienced by victims of bullying result in a sense of helplessness and negative emotional states.”
An ongoing stance to educating the workforce, containing virulent behavior, and promoting safety within corporate walls is warranted. As a supervisor, consider the following steps to increase worker safety:
- Craft a civility policy. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, this is a growing imperative within firms that wish to promote cordiality among employees.
- Change the culture. To truly be effective, any initiative must be top down – instigated by people who have the authority to hold others accountable. Otherwise, programs risk becoming “flavors of the month” that are easily discontinued in lean times.
- Realize that words hurt. Once spoken, texted, or sent, they cannot be retracted – they are forever lodged in the mind of the recipient. Classes on civil discourse can create awareness regarding appropriate comportment.