The Scary Health Effects of Hostile Work Environments

Photo of firingHostile workplaces are not only bad for self-esteem, but also physical and mental health. Workers employed in hostile workplaces can face higher rates of insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks and heart disease. Hostile workplaces can also cause clinical depression and suicidal ideation.

Hostile workplaces can arise from bullying and harassment from coworkers, superiors or both. Unfortunately, hostile workplaces have become normal in the United States, and 35 percent of American workers report being bullied at work. So what are the potential health effects on 35 percent of American workers?

According to the American Psychological Association, stressful and hostile work environments raise the risk of cardiovascular disease, which can cause heart attacks and strokes. Hostile work environments also raise the risk of developing weight problems and elevated cholesterol. In a way, hostile work environments can slowly kill workers.

Hostile work environments also affect mental health. In an emotional story published on the website LiveScience, a psychologist working with the Workplace Bullying Institute described how hostile work environments cause devastating mental health problems. The psychologist retold the story of a bullied worker who took regular verbal barrages from her boss. After months of abuse, the woman and several others drafted a 25-page complaint and sent it to human resources. Days later, the woman was called into a meeting with senior management. Instead of allowing herself to be fired, the woman returned to work with a pistol and shot herself to death.

How Can Employees Handle Hostile Work Environments?

Depending on the situation, hostile workplaces may be violating state and federal laws. In cases involving civil rights violations, such as racism and sexual orientation discrimination, workplace harassment could be violating employment laws. There are other circumstances where employees may have legal options to fight back against hostile workplaces. For future updates on this subject, continue following our employment law and workers’ rights blog.