Workplace bullying linked to long-term stress

by 01 Jul 2010

A new study by the University of Sheffield has uncovered evidence of a strong link between workplace bullying and the subsequent psychological ill-health of employees.

The study, which was funded by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), found that bullying from organisational insiders, for example colleagues, subordinates and superiors, significantly influenced levels of stress reported seven months later.

It found that 39 per cent of employees in the study reported either weekly or daily bullying from colleagues, subordinates or superiors in the previous six months.

Christine Sprigg, lecturer in Occupational Psychology at the University´s Institute of Work Psychology, who led the study, said: “The evidence of the relationship between employee ill-health and workplace bullying is clearly shown by our data, but more importantly we find that there might be workplace interventions, for example working to boost employee self-esteem, that can help to lessen the impact of other people´s bad behaviour at work. We look forward to investigating this further.”

Of the different types of unacceptable behaviour the researchers examined, it was bullying from people inside the organisation that had the most salient health effects for employees.

The study found that higher levels of personal optimism and self-esteem and lower workloads helped to protect employees from the negative health consequences of bullying.

Enhancing personal optimism and self-esteem in work-based training programmes may therefore limit the negative impact of bullying at work. However, tackling the perpetrators of bullying with visible organisational policies and procedures still remains paramount.

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