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July 6, 2010

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Research – Ill-health link to workplace bullying

An academic study has uncovered new evidence of the negative impact that workplace bullying can have on the mental health of those subjected to it.€ᄄ€ᄄ

The study by the University of Sheffield found that bullying from organisational insiders – for example, colleagues, subordinates and superiors – significantly influenced levels of stress reported seven months later.€ᄄ€ᄄ

The evidence was based on a two-part study involving nine organisations, with 3652 employees responding in the first part of the study and a further 2029 employees in the second part.€ᄄ€ᄄ

The study found that 39 per cent of employees in the study reported frequent (either weekly or daily) bullying from colleagues, subordinates or superiors in the previous six months. Of the different types of unacceptable behaviour the researchers examined, bullying from people inside the organisation had the most salient health effects for employees.€ᄄ€ᄄ

The researchers also found that higher levels of personal optimism, as well as lower workloads, helped protect employees from the negative health consequences of bullying – suggesting that enhancing self-esteem in work-based training programmes could help limit the negative impact of bullying at work. However, such efforts should not be at the expense of tackling the perpetrators of bullying, with researchers underlined the importance of visible organisational policies and procedures to deal with the issue.

€ᄄ€ᄄChristine 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, e.g. 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.”€ᄄ€ᄄ

Dr Luise Vassie, head of research and technical services at IOSH, which funded the study, said: “We’re pleased that this research not only adds to the existing body of knowledge on this subject but also provides us with ideas on how the detrimental impact of bullying on worker health can be reduced.”

The report, ‘Unacceptable behaviour, health and wellbeing at work’, can be downloaded at

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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