Toxic workplaces lead to 300 percent increase in risk of depression among employees

ADELAIDE, Australia — Toxic workplaces don’t just make employees unhappy or less productive, a new study finds they may also be damaging their mental health. Researchers from the University of South Australia say a hostile atmosphere for workers raises their risk of developing depression by a staggering 300 percent.

Study authors explain that poor management practices and lack of communication can combine to badly damage someone’s mental health. With around 300 million people worldwide suffering from depression, researchers add managers need to be aware of the psychological needs of their staff or employees will quit.

High levels of burnout and workplace bullying also have a link to corporations who fail to support workers’ mental well-being. The study finds enthusiastic and committed workers often feel valued by their employers. Men are also more likely to become depressed if their workplace pays scant attention to their psychological health.

Poor behavior and policies in the workplace have become a hot-button issue across America in recent years. Specifically, companies like Amazon and even entertainment programs like the “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” are facing backlash over allegations of worker mistreatment.

Workplace bullying is bad for everyone, even the bully

Surprisingly, researchers also discovered bullying not only impacts the psychological well-being of the victim, but also the perpetrator and witnesses.

“Evidence shows that companies who fail to reward or acknowledge their employees for hard work, impose unreasonable demands on workers, and do not give them autonomy, are placing their staff at a much greater risk of depression,” explains Dr. Amy Zadow in a media release.

“Lack of consultation with employees and unions over workplace health and safety issues, and little support for stress prevention, is linked to low psychological safety climate in companies,” Prof. Maureen Dollard adds. “We also found that bullying in a work unit can not only negatively affect the victim, but also the perpetrator and team members who witness that behavior. It is not uncommon for everyone in the same unit to experience burnout as a result.

“In this study we investigated bullying in a group context and why it occurs. Sometimes stress is a trigger for bullying and in the worst cases it can set an ‘acceptable’ level of behavior for other members of the team. But above all bullying can be predicted from a company’s commitment to mental health, so it can be prevented,” Dollard continues.

“The practical implications of this research are far reaching. High levels of worker burnout are extremely costly to organizations and it’s clear that top-level organizational change is needed to address the issue.”

The study appears in the British Medical Journal.

SWNS writer Joe Morgan contributed to this report.