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Helpline: 0300 323 0169

Telephone: 0845 225 5787

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An office worker feeling stressed at work

Work related stress due to bullying in the workplace

Stress related to bullying in the workplace

Here we address the issue of Work Related Stress and talk you through causes, effect and action you can take to reduce the risk of negative stress. This is a particularly interesting issue as over 70% of employee calls to our helpline have already been signed off work with Work Related Stress by their GP.


In some cases, callers have been off work for months and months and risk dismissal on grounds of ‘Capability Due to Ill Health’. Don’t wait until you are so ill you cannot see a way forward. Call us if you need help. At some point in our working lives we have all probably felt stressed about a project, target or circumstance that’s out of our control. It might have been the potential outcome of a situation is perceived to be a threat to your job or reputation within the business. Stress can affect us all differently and no one is immune to feeling stressed, it can all depend on the person and their ability to perform under pressure. It certainly does not imply weakness. In fact it’s a fundamental part of our survival instincts that makes us human. Stress is a physical response by the brain to danger.


Unfortunately, prolonged exposure to stress related to bullying at work can have serious consequences on our body and mind. There are a number of recognised illnesses that are associated with stress or are forms of stress, including PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and PTED (Post Traumatic Embitterment Disorder) and Depression.


The physical and mental impact on our lives due to bullying related stress can affect our behaviour and relationships at home and work. It can also have an impact on our ability to do our job. Stress is one on the biggest contributors to long term sick leave in the UK with over half a million workers citing stress, depression or anxiety as a factor to their absence in the last year. If you are suffering with a stress related condition or you think that you might be stressed. These are some of the signs to look out for.

What is work related stress?

Stress can be likened to an ‘out of body’ experience where you cease to function normally, or think rationally, due to feelings of confusion, hurt, anger, frustration and despair caused by the actions of another person. Some say stress is good for you but where it is attributed to the negative behaviour of an individual, or employer, and where that treatment impacts negatively on your health, it is quite the opposite. If left, the distress turns to a level of stress that can become deep-routed and harmful long term.


It is a mental health condition. It constitutes injury if it can be proven that the injury  (ie: the stress) has been caused by the actions of others – or by a failure to act, in cases where an employer fails to investigate matters but ‘knew or reasonably ought to have known’ that the treatment was potentially harmful. (Definition by Christine Pratt, Founder of NBH).

What are the symptoms of stress

These are some of the symptoms and signs consistent with stress. Stress can have a physical and emotional impact on your body and stress related to bullying at work is one of the most common causes of stress in the workplace.

  • Feeling of helplessness.
  • Loss of confidence
  • Feeling overly emotional
  • Grumpy and irritable
  • Feelings of anxiousness & despair.
  • Feeling hopeless & out of control.
  • More forgetful than usual
  • A lack of motivation
  • Feel low of depressed
  • Inability to see a future.
  • Excessive and constant tiredness
  • listlessness, exhaustion or fatigue.
  • Erratic anger and frustration
  • A drop in productivity
  • Aches and pains of the body
  • Headaches & migraine
  • Loss of stamina and strength.
  • Palpitations and breathlessness.
  • Excessive perspiration or Sweating
  • Nightmares & Night Terrors.
  • Flashbacks which are work related.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Rapid weight gain or loss
  • Loss of sex drive and libido.
  • Upset stomach & butterflies
  • Physical sickness.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Stomach cramp & stomach pain.
  • diarrhoea or constipation
  • Angina, heart attack, panic attack.

What can you do about stress?

There is a lot you can do. You are the only one who can bring about change in this situation. Consider your options and strategise your case before you make a life-changing decision. Insure you are informed of your rights and your options before you act.  Do not resign you position,  call us first.  Here are a few simple, strategic, steps you can take.


Start to keep a diary. Keep it at home. Write down examples of the bullying keeping it factual and brief. You’re not writing a book. You are keeping a diary. Include date, time, names of witnesses and a brief summary. Collate hard copies of the Company policies.  Grievance Policy. Bullying & Harassment Policy and other relevant policies ie: Performance Management, Maternity, Flexible Working and Absence Management.

Open a folder. Keep at home and start to structure your case. Your case is about the written word, not the spoken word so ensure everything is documented and placed in your folder. Sections in your folder will likely include (not exclusively); Policies & Contract of Employment, Diary, Health (ie: Sick Certificate), Witnesses, Evidence, Sources of Information, Appraisals, Emails and Correspondence, Minutes of Meetings, File Notes, Personal Achievements, Advice sought and research material etc. Call our Helpline or seek legal advice regarding your rights. Draw up and submit a Stage 1 Grievance or respond in writing to any formal process you are being put through.  If you meet with management but no minutes are taken, follow the meeting up with an email confirming what was said and agreed. Put it in your folder.


These simple steps, above, will help you to feel more in control as you embark on formal processes.  Call our helpline for further advice or follow the policies and procedures laid down by your employer. A good source of information regarding your employment rights can be found on the ACAS website.

Ten top tips for employers to reduce organisational stress

Stress can prove a major headache for firms, leading to misunderstandings and getting in the way of productivity. Here we advise employers how to reduce stress in the workplace. Nobody’s perfect, we all have too much pressure from time to time, and stress can affect anyone given an accumulation of circumstances...

Thomson Local blog, The Top Ten Tips for employers to reduce organisational stress

Top 10 tips to reduce work related stress

  1. Adopt an attitude that stress is not a weakness and develop this culture within your department and/or organisation
  2. Ensure you are not suffering from stress yourself
  3. Analyse your management style and behaviour. (We can help)
  4. Ensure the working environment is suitable. (Analyse your turnover and absence statistics)
  5. Help your staff cope with change - no matter how big or small
  6. Improve communications. Talk to staff. Observe your staff. Make yourself available. Walk the Talk! (Read In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters & Robert H Waterman Jr.)
  7. Empathise. Think of yourself in your employees' shoes
  8. Do regular, informal, risk assessments on your staff to check nobody is subject to work related stress.
  9. Encourage staff to attend development courses and stress management courses.
  10. Praise your staff. Remember to say "thank you" (it costs nothing and goes a long way).

More Information

Testimony from caller diagnosed with Work Related Stress

Testimony from caller diagnosed with Work Related Stress: dated July 2018: Just a quick email to say thank you for your advice and support and offer of help with grievance etc when I phoned the bullying helpline recently. My GP was concerned about my failing health, brought on by the hostile environment my current manager has created for me.  I had to take notice of my GP advice which was “no job is worth making you ill. You’re on the way to a serious attack”. Thanks again for your help.  Your organisations is doing a great job – helping people to move forward away from their bullying circumstance – to a better more peaceful existence.

The National Bullying Helpline

Call: 0300 323 0169 or 0845 22 55 787

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©️ The National Bullying Helpline 2022

Call the National Bullying Helpline on

0300 323 0169 or

0845 22 55 787

Open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday