Workplace harassment is a widespread issue that affects numerous employees in the workforce. Recent research reveals that almost 60% of employees reported experiencing workplace harassment. There is an urgency to addressing not only the incidence of harassment, but also its alarming mental health consequences. By looking at how workplace harassment affects mental health, this post outlines a few of those many potential harms and helps employers develop strategies for minimizing these risks.

What Is Workplace Harassment?

Workplace harassment simply means creating an environment at work which is hostile to its members by engaging in behaviors such as verbal abuse, physical intimidation, sexual harassment, and psychological manipulation. Harassment can come from anyone, including senior-officials or sub-ordinates.

In a survey of workers conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute, it was reported that 30% have directly been bullied at work but fully half are witness to it. That these numbers are so startlingly high means that the problem must be deeply prevalent.

Immediate Psychological Effects

Stress and Anxiety

The very immediate effects post workplace harassment include the onset of stress coupled with anxiety. However, victims may also have physical symptoms such as headaches, lack of sleep, or even tachycardia. Anxiety looks like incessant worrying, blacking out, or puking before work.

Fear and Insecurity

Harassment can leave victims feeling terrified and insecure. This fear can lead to decreased job performance, as people are always on their toes and unable to concentrate on carrying out tasks. Work, a place in which you should feel safe and productive, can become a place associated with dread and discomfort.

Mental Health Consequences

Clinical Depression

Chronic harassment may result in clinical depression. Symptoms can include feelings of persistent sadness, a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, and overall hopelessness. Depression not only hinders someone’s personal life but also their abilities at work, often times causing a lack of focus and frequent absenteeism.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Workplace harassment can lead to PTSD, potentially. Symptoms of PTSD include extreme anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts with flashbacks or nightmares. This disorder can cause serious problems at home, work and in most aspects of a person’s life.


Workplace harassment has an ability to cause burnout, defined as emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment. Burnout is detrimental not only for the mind, but also to our bodies, making us susceptible to more chronic illnesses like heart disease or high blood pressure.

Effects on Work and Personal Life

Job Performance

There is no way the mental health impacts of bullying stay confined to that one specific part of life. Trying to stay focused, making decisions, or keeping a work routine is impossible for victims. This drop in productivity will cause missed deadlines and low quality of work which can lead to a higher risk of being fired.

Interference with Personal Relationships

The stress and emotional impact of harassment can spill over into personal relationships. They can pull away from family and friends, develop irritability and mood swings, and may have trouble building – or even keeping relationships. Their personal life hits another bottom, which worsens their mental health issues.

What Employers Can Do to Prevent Harassment

Creating a Safe Work Environment

The organization must create a secure work culture. This means having clear anti-harassment policies, ensuring open lines of communication, and building a culture that respects & supports everyone. This is why access to mental health resources provided through support systems proves vital. Employers should provide counselling, employee assistance programms (EAP) and group therapy services. Promotion of these can hugely help in improving employees’ mental health.


Continuous training on harassment prevention and mental health awareness is a must. Training staff and management on how to spot and deal with harassment can foster a healthier workplace. Training should explain the role of reporting and techniques for colleagues navigating harassment.

Find Professional Help

Victims of harassment at work should also turn to professional help in caring for their mental health. Trauma-specific counseling, therapy, and support groups can offer these coping tools. Also, understanding one’s legal rights by speaking to a workplace harassment lawyer and learning how to report harassment can help the victim feel that they have some way of fighting back.

Workplace harassment extends beyond the office, as it has deepening impacts on our mental health. It is the duty of all employers to provide a safe environment, support systems, and education for their workers regarding what harassment looks like as well as how it can be avoided. By being pro-active, we can create a workplace culture where mental health and well-being are paramount.