How Workplace Bullying Can Spillover Into Home Life

Topic(s): Counter-Productive Work Behavior, stress, work-life balance
Publication: Journal of Interpersonal Violence
Article: Workplace bullying: Emotional Exhaustion and partner social undermining: A weekly diary study
Authors: A. Rodríguez-Muñoz, M. Antino, J. M. León-Pérez, P. Ruiz-Zorrilla
Reviewed by: Payge Japp

Workplace bullying is defined as repetitive, harmful acts that are aimed at people who cannot defend themselves. Previous research has found that workplace bullying can lead to a plethora of harmful effects for employees. However, minimal research has looked at (1) the long-term effects of workplace bullying or (2) the “spillover” effects that workplace bullying may have on employee home-life.


Researchers (Rodríguez-Muñoz et al., 2022) collected data from 124 participants, who were required to be employed in the same organization for at least 6 months, live with the same partner for at least 6 months, and not be under psychiatric/psychological treatment.

In the first phase, participants were administered a survey that assessed the general level of workplace bullying that the employees experienced. Next, four weekly surveys collected information about employees’ home behavior, including spouse perceptions of the employee’s home behavior.

The findings demonstrated how workplace bullying may increase employee stress and rumination, which may result in increased exhaustion and negative behaviors towards a romantic partner at home. Rumination occurs when employees repeatedly dwell on past negative experiences; according to the authors, it may help explain why bullying leads to a “downward spiral of relationships” both at work and at home.


Overall, this study demonstrates that workplace bullying has effects that extend far beyond the workplace, going so far as to effect family and home life. What can organizations do about it? The authors suggest that a variety of strategies can be used to either reduce bullying, or alternatively, to help employees reframe negative events so they can move beyond them in a psychologically healthy way.


Rodríguez-Muñoz, A., Antino, M., León-Pérez, J. M., & Ruiz-Zorrilla, P. (2020). Workplace bullying, emotional exhaustion, and partner social undermining: a weekly diary study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence37(5–6), NP3650–NP3666.

Image credit: istockphoto/fizkes