The US study found nearly one in five workers say they face a hostile or threatening environment at work, which can include sexual harassment and bullying.
This was based on an in-depth study of 3,066 US workers by the Rand Corp., Harvard Medical School and the University of California, Los Angeles.
Dr Lindsay McMillan, lead researcher at global HR think-tank Reventure and campaign leader of a future that works, said unfortunately, the US findings are not unique.
“Half of Australian workers have experienced one or more serious incidences of conflict or negative impacts at work including verbal abuse or bullying,” said Dr McMillan.
“It is no wonder then that 14 per cent of Australian workers experienced a mental or physical decline as a direct result of their work, and almost one in three have high stress levels often or always.
“We need to take workplace culture more seriously.”
Dr McMillan said to improve Australia’s standing in the workplace stakes, a stronger focus on workplace relationships was urgently needed.
“Hostility can be external, and customer facing workers bear much of that burden, but, internal hostility and a threatening culture is bred when employees do not work together,” said McMillan.
“This is typical in highly competitive and highly punitive workplace cultures and it is up to leadership to change the nature of workplace relationships by example.
“Something as simple as showing employees their development options can make a big difference to employees because it shows that you are thinking about their long-term prospects.
“Our research shows that the four principles to keep workplace relationships healthy are engagement, development, inclusion and life enhancement.”
The US research also found that nearly 55% say they face "unpleasant and potentially hazardous" conditions.
Moreover, nearly three quarters said they spend at least a quarter of their time on the job in "intense or repetitive physical" labor.
Adjusting to life as a busy professional: managing your health
How job design can reduce workplace stress
Five ways for leaders to boost their EQ
A “disturbingly high” number of workers in the US have reported working in hostile or threatening workplaces and these findings are largely consistent with the situation in Australia.