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Toxic workplaces increase risk of depression by 300%

Love thy employees; as 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.

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Photo by Bethany Legg from Unsplash.com

A year-long Australian population study has found that full time workers employed by organisations that fail to prioritise their employees’ mental health have a threefold increased risk of being diagnosed with depression.

And while working long hours is a risk factor for dying from cardiovascular disease or having a stroke, poor management practices pose a greater risk for depression, the researchers found.

The University of South Australia study, published in the British Medical Journal today, is led by UniSA’s Psychosocial Safety Climate Observatory, the world’s first research platform exploring workplace psychological health and safety.

Psychosocial safety climate (PSC) is the term used to describe management practices and communication and participation systems that protect workers’ mental health and safety.

Lead author, Dr Amy Zadow, says that poor workplace mental health can be traced back to poor management practices, priorities and values, which then flows through to high job demands and low resources.

“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,” says Dr Zadow.

Internationally renowned expert on workplace mental health, ARC Laureate Professor Maureen Dollard, says the study found that while enthusiastic and committed workers are valued, working long hours can lead to depression. Men are also more likely to become depressed if their workplace pays scant attention to their psychological health.

Due to the global burden of depression, which affects an estimated 300 million people worldwide and shows no sign of abating despite available treatments, more attention is now being paid to poorly functioning work environments which could contribute to the problem.

High levels of burnout and workplace bullying are also linked to corporations’ failure to support workers’ mental health.

A second paper co-authored by Professor Dollard and published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology earlier this month, found that low PSC was an important predictor of bullying and emotional exhaustion.

“Lack of consultation with employees and unions over workplace health and safety issues, and little support for stress prevention, is linked to low PSC in companies.

“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 behaviour. 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 behaviour 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,” Prof Dollard says.

The global costs of workplace bullying and worker burnout are significant, manifested in absenteeism, poor work engagement, stress leave and low productivity.

The extent of the problem was recognised in 2019 with the International Labour Organization (ILO) implementing a Global Commission on the Future of Work and calling for “a human-centred approach, putting people and the work they do at the centre of economic and social policy and business practice”.

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

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Poor management the biggest risk factor for workplace bullying

Workplace bullying undermines the functioning of employees and organizations alike. It leads to mental health problems, post-traumatic stress symptoms, emotional exhaustion, poor job satisfaction, high staff turnover, low productivity, sleep problems and even suicide risks.

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Workplace bullying affects one in 10 employees, costing global employers billions of dollars every year in absenteeism, stress leave and lost productivity. 

Now, Australian researchers have developed an evidence-based screening tool that identifies nine major risk areas for workplace bullying embedded in day-to-day practices, putting the onus on organizations to address the problem.

In a paper published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, lead author University of South Australia Professor Michelle Tuckey and colleagues from the Centre for Workplace Excellence,  the University of Queensland and Auburn University in the United States offer a new way of tackling bullying at work.

They analyzed 342 real-life bullying complaints lodged with SafeWork SA, 60 per cent of them from female employees. The highest number of complaints were from health and community services, property and business, and the retail sector. The complaints revealed the risk areas for bullying in organizations.

“Workplace bullying predominantly shows up in how people are managed,” Prof Tuckey says. “Managing work performance, co-ordinating working hours and entitlements, and shaping workplace relationships are key areas that organizations need to focus on. It can be tempting to see bullying as a behavioral problem between individuals, but the evidence suggests that bullying actually reflects structural risks in the organizations themselves.”

The major organizational risks have now been identified and built into a screening tool that has been validated in a hospital setting.

“The tool predicts both individual-level and team-level workplace bullying risks that jeopardize the psychological health of employees,” Prof Tuckey says.

The researchers say that existing strategies, such as anti-bullying policies, bullying awareness training, incident reporting and investigating complaints, focus on behavior between individuals and overlook workplace structures.

“Workplace bullying undermines the functioning of employees and organizations alike. It leads to mental health problems, post-traumatic stress symptoms, emotional exhaustion, poor job satisfaction, high staff turnover, low productivity, sleep problems and even suicide risks,” Prof Tuckey says. “To prevent bullying, organizations must proactively assess and mitigate the underlying risk factors, like other systematic risk management processes. Only then will an organization thrive.”

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Horrible bosses cause ‘race to the bottom’ – study

A new study has found that hostile behaviors from “abusive” bosses can lead to co-workers adopting similar behavior, leading to a toxic atmosphere of insecurity and exhaustion in the workplace.

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A new study has found that hostile behaviors from “abusive” bosses can lead to co-workers adopting similar behavior, leading to a toxic atmosphere of insecurity and exhaustion in the workplace.

The study, carried out by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the UK as well as researchers in Pakistan, China and the United States, surveyed 323 employees about their experiences of abusive behavior from superiors and peers, and also their job security and level of emotional exhaustion.

Examples of hostile behavior in the workplace considered by the researchers included use of inappropriate language, sexual harassment, outbursts, humiliation and misuse of power.

Researchers uncovered a significant association between abusive leader behavior and abusive behavior from co-workers. Of the 323 people involved in the study, 68% who had experienced hostile behavior from a leader had also witnessed interpersonal aggression from the general workforce.

The study also reported an association between experiencing hostile behavior from leaders and emotional exhaustion and job insecurity, suggesting that mistreatment from peers can damage employees’ confidence in their job and their role within an organization.

Of those who had experienced hostile behavior from a leader, 35% had faced abusive peer behavior themselves, 52% had suffered emotional exhaustion and 77% had concerns about job security.

Co-author Dr Nadeem Khalid, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Strategy at ARU, said: “It’s clear from our study that hostile behavior at the top of a workplace is not only likely to be damaging to individuals in terms of their emotional exhaustion and job security, it is also likely to encourage other employees to act in unethical ways, creating a toxic environment across the entire organization.

“This mirroring of negative behavior may have its roots in the reciprocal relationship between leaders and employees. An employee who is mistreated may feel the only way to get ahead in their job is to treat others as they have been treated themselves – this may not always be intentional but it results in a race to the bottom among employees and damages job security and leads to stress and exhaustion.

“Previous studies have shown that abusive behavior from leaders is associated with a lack of commitment from employees, and has a negative effect on emotional wellbeing. Our study suggests that the situation could be exacerbated by the negative behavior of general workers as well as the leader.”

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LinkedIn lists top startups in PH, highlights rise of digital entrepreneurship, entertainment, education

The Philippines has always had a strong MSME (micro, small, and medium enterprises) sector. The pandemic further propelled its growth as Filipinos embarked on micro or solo entrepreneurship to augment their income and overcome financial challenges.

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LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, revealed its inaugural Top Startups in the Philippines list, which highlights the local startups that have shown resilience in an uncertain market environment and are continuing to innovate in 2022.  

LinkedIn analyzed data across four pillars to compile the list: employee growth, jobseeker interest, the attraction of top talent, and engagement with the company’s LinkedIn page and its employees. This is the first time LinkedIn has introduced the Top Startups list in the Philippines.

Satoshi Ebitani, Senior Managing Editor, LinkedIn News, said: “In an uncertain financial climate, what has proven resilient time and time again is the enterprising spirit that startups embody, especially those on this year’s LinkedIn Top Startups list. In the Philippines, we see a diverse mix in sectors such as e-commerce, education, and entertainment, which continue to lead the way in the future of skills by embracing innovation and attracting top talent with their robust cultures. Through this list, we hope to spark meaningful conversations surrounding the future of work and inspire professionals to equip themselves with the necessary skills to thrive, no matter the headwinds.”

New era of entrepreneurship

The Philippines has always had a strong MSME (micro, small, and medium enterprises) sector. The pandemic further propelled its growth as Filipinos embarked on micro or solo entrepreneurship to augment their income and overcome financial challenges. This new class of entrepreneurs behind startups such as SariSuki (#2), Shoppertainment Live (#3), Edamama (#5), Growsari (#6), Peddlr (#9), and Prosperna (#10) met opportunities to respond to the demands of the times.

Entertainment, E-sports, and Education companies are thriving 

The success of the live-streaming platform Kumu (#4), led by local creatives and talent, highlights the country’s growing demand for innovative and interactive digital entertainment that champions Filipino voices and perspectives. Meanwhile, gaming and e-sports company Tier One Entertainment (#1) shows the unique potential of this lucrative industry by investing in talent and technology.

“Investing in automation, the right people, and experienced leadership who are open to feedback and the ever-changing status quo of our industry was key for surviving and growing during the pandemic. Pivoting quickly through setbacks is vital to survival in these times,” Tryke Gutierrez, Co-Founder and CEO of Tier One Entertainment, said. “LinkedIn has helped us tell our story to the world. We’re able to share more long-form content that isn’t as readily digestible on other social media platforms to an audience that is more open to serious or nuanced discussion,” he added.

Education technology (Edtech) platform Edukasyon.ph (#8) saw an opportunity to be of service in response to the disruption in the education sector and emerging concerns about the future readiness of today’s youth.

Growth areas in digital finance

As digital finance becomes more mainstream in the Philippines, the rise of  PDAX (Philippine Digital Asset Exchange) (#7), a homegrown cryptocurrency exchange, indicates the Filipinos’ growing interest in exploring new frontiers in personal finance and investments to diversify and optimize their portfolios, navigate the current economic climate, and benefit from future growth potential.     

The top 10 startups in the Philippines are:

  1. Tier One Entertainment
  2. SariSuki
  3. Shoppertainment Live
  4. Kumu
  5. Edamama
  6. GrowSari
  7. PDAX (Philippine Digital Asset Exchange)
  8. Edukasyon.ph
  9. Peddlr
  10. Prosperna

More details on the LinkedIn Top Startups list in the Philippines are found here.

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