Human Resources News & Insights

Bullied staffers more likely to need antidepressants, sleeping pills

Need more proof that workplace bullying is detrimental to your entire workforce?

The latest findings: Not only is workplace bullying common, but it can also lead to medication use.

That’s according to “Workplace bullying and subsequent psychotropic medication: A cohort study with register linkages,” a survey of 6,606 employees of the city of Helsinki, Finland published last month in BMJ Open.

According to researchers’ findings, one in five women and one in eight men said they’ve been bullied at work.

And those who self-reported that that they were victims of bullying were more likely to use sleeping pills, antidepressants and sedatives.

Some more disturbing findings:

  • Bullied men were more likely to use medications than bullied women, and
  • Men and women who witnessed bullying were one and a half to two times as likely to need medications.

The findings echo similar studies published throughout 2012 that found that 35% of U.S. workers have been bullied and that employees consider quitting their jobs if there’s bullying at work – even if they aren’t the target.

Why do people in power bully?

A CareerBuilder and Harris Interactive workplace bullying study from 2012 reported that 48% of respondents have been bullied by their manager. Another new study sought to determine why supervisors tend to bully their reports.

The findings: People in power see things more in a black-and-white sense of right and wrong — and usually come out on the side of wrong.

So says new research by Scott Wiltermuth, a USC Marshall School of Business assistant professor of management and organization, and co-author Francis Flynn of the Stanford Graduate School of Business. The study’s results will appear in an upcoming issue of the Academy of Management Journal.

What’s it mean for managers? Wiultermuth put it best:

“That link between power and more severe punishment could cause a huge problem for managers. What a manager sees as appropriate punishment could be seen as absolutely draconian by other people.”

That might lead to a protest of a manager’s actions by staff, which could in turn erode a manager’s authority and ability to operate.

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