February 19, 2015
A new study in the journal "Anxiety, Stress & Coping" claims there's a reciprocal relationship between overactive nerves and victimization in the workplace.
The researchers, led by Alfredo Rodriguez-Munoz of the University of East Anglia, argue that anxiety can make people more vulnerable to workplace bullying, and in turn, workplace bullying may to lead to anxiety.
The research team surveyed 348 workers in Spain. They asked them a series of questions to measure their anxiety and overall engagement in the workplace, as well as questions about whether they regularly felt victimized by someone at their jobs.
Participants were then asked the same series of questions six months later.
The results revealed a 'spiral' of abuse in which the victims of bullying became anxious, making them less likely to stand up for themselves, and therefore, more vulnerable to further harassment.
"Workplace bullying leads to poor health because the victim is exposed to a very stressful situation - resulting in anxiety and lack of vigour," Dr. Ana Sanz Vergel, from UEA's Norwich Business School, said in a statement.
"We wanted to see whether deteriorated health could make the employee an easy target for bullying. For example, the victim may have less energy to respond to difficult situations and therefore receive less support from colleagues or supervisors. Another explanation is the so-called 'gloomy perception mechanism' in which anxious employees may evaluate their environment more negatively."
This reciprocal relationship between anxiety and bullying formed a "negative loop," the researchers said. The study suggests that employers should more closely monitor workplace bullying, as well as assist victims in gaining the skills to cope with such situations.