What the Royal conflict illuminates about workplace bullying

Amitha Kalaichandran
7 min readMar 7, 2021

Workplace bullying is common, yet under-recognized, and can wreak havoc on our physical and mental health.

Credit: CBS/Harpo Productions

“Were you silent or were you silenced?” Oprah Winfrey asks, alluding to mistreatment in a dramatic preview that first aired last Sunday, for an upcoming CBS special (airing tonight) with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. This harkens back to a 2019 ITV documentary, where interviewer Tom Bradby asks Markle if she’s ok, a theme she later expanded upon in a Times Op-ed. Now, timed ahead of the CBS interview, the British Royal Family themselves are fighting back with allegations (though there may be more to the story) against a pregnant Markle. On Thursday, a new preview showed what many have suspected: that the mistreatment and bullying Markle alleges to have experienced wasn’t just restricted to the tabloid press, but from within the Palace, known as “the Firm.” This effectively makes it a workplace issue, one merely complicated by family dynamics, not dictated by it. While Markle’s “work” happens on the world stage, others suffer devastating impacts of workplace bullying in fields as diverse as medicine, law, nursing, journalism.

While reporting on my forthcoming book about healthcare and healing, I was surprised to discover that, given how much time we spend at work, workplace culture is possibly the single most crucial determinant of our well-being. Indeed, toxic workplace cultures, of which bullying is a part, are harmful to our physical and emotional health. Here are seven other things I learned:

1.Bullying and Mobbing are on a spectrum, and the reasons vary

Over a third, and up to 90%, of Americans experience bullying or mobbing in the workplace, and it’s on the rise, which can cost an organization up to $2 million dollars per year. Yet workplace bullying is often not reported. Bullying is usually peer-to-peer, even if a more powerful individual instigates it, and the dynamics involve the target, bully, and bystander. Mobbing, on the other hand, involves an ‘elimination mindset’ with malicious energy “shared among many.” Both bullying and mobbing can take a variety of forms: from the legitimization of unfair criticism and setting impossible expectations, to false accusations and sabotage, to weaponizing

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Amitha Kalaichandran

A physician, epidemiologist, medical journalist, and health tech consultant with an interest in the intersection of integrative medicine and innovation.