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Workplace bullying negatively impacts consumers’ mental and physical health

Researchers say employers shouldn’t take bullying lightly

Photo (c) praetorianphoto - Getty Images
Consumers spend a great deal of their time at work, and having a hostile work environment can be detrimental to both mental and physical health.

According to a new study, employees who experience the brunt of workplace bullying not only feel the effects in their physical health, but it can also negatively impact their self-esteem and own behavior in the workplace.

“Overall, our results show the need to consider not only exposure to and types of bullying, but also their associated consequences,” said researcher Dr. Roberta Fida. “In particular, the findings highlight that victimization is associated not only with health problems, but also with a greater likelihood of not behaving in line with the expected social and organizational norms.”

Understanding bullying

To see how bullying affected employees’ work performance and their overall well-being, the researchers had over 1,000 participants report on their experience with workplace bullying.

The participants shared if they dealt with workplace bullying versus personal bullying. They also reported on any negative behaviors that arose as a result of the bullying, how their health was affected, and how they were able to cope with the bullying, if at all.

Based on the responses, the researchers were able to divide the participants into five different groups:

  • Frequently exposed to workplace bullying (4.4 percent)

  • Occasional workplace and personal bullying (9.6 percent)

  • Limited exposure to workplace bullying and no personal bullying (22.3 percent)

  • No exposure to bullying, but with health-related symptoms (23.9 percent)

  • No exposure to bullying, with no health-related symptoms (39.9 percent)

Participants in the first group were targeted for both work-related matters and personal issues, and they were found to act out at work and also feel the physical ramifications of bullying. The second group experienced less personal bullying, and they also exhibited better behavior with their coworkers and better physical health.

While each subsequent group showed less physical symptoms because of bullying -- with the exception of the fourth group -- many of the participants struggled with coping skills and dealing with negative emotions.

“The greater the intensity of the bullying and the more exposure to the different types of bullying, the higher the likelihood of engaging in counterproductive workplace behaviour,” said Dr. Frida. “Furthermore, the results show that health-related symptoms are not always associated with experiences of bullying. Indeed, while those experiencing limited work-related bullying did not report health problems, those who were not bullied but misbehaved did.”

Overall, the researchers proved that workplace bullying affects employees in a myriad of ways, and is not something that should be taken lightly by employers. Moving forward, they hope more workplaces take these findings into consideration to provide the best work environments for their workers.

Staying positive at work

In an effort to create more supportive, encouraging workplaces, researchers have explored how different initiatives can affect employees’ morale and satisfaction at work.

For example, a recent study found that expressing gratitude at work can leave employees’ with positive health benefits, while workplaces with health and wellness programs are not only beneficial for physical health, but give consumers an outlet to take their minds off the mental stressors of work.

“Most American adults work, and many spend half or more of their waking hours at work,” said Laura Linnan. “Where we work, how long we work, the conditions of our work, who we work with -- all of these factors impact our health.”

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