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Detection of workplace bullying and its negative impact on psychological well-being

José María León Pérez, Francisco Javier Cantero Sánchez, Míriam Benítez González & José María León Rubio, Cármides Research Group, Universidad de Sevilla; Alejandro Orgambídez Ramos, Cármides Research Group, Universidad de Málaga
Project selected in the Social Research Call, 2020 (LCF/PR/SR20/52550015)

Psychological bullying stands as one of the main psychosocial risks for workers’ health. However, the methods used for its detection are cast into doubt because they use subjective criteria that may involuntarily offer a false depiction of reality. For this reason, researchers and experts in the field have made numerous efforts to offer more objective criteria that permit more precise discernment of whether a person is being exposed to a situation of workplace bullying. This article describes a detection method that, based on classification through a series of responses revolving around a generalised anxiety scale, enables the establishment with rigour of the probability or risk of suffering a situation of psychological bullying and determination of its negative impact on psychological wellbeing. The data, from a study conducted by the Cármides Research Group, reveal that the risk of suffering bullying in the workplace is high for 11.2% of the population, and that the distress that it causes is significant for both the person bullied and the organisation for which they work.
Key points
  • 1
       This study contributes solutions to the controversy that exists over how to detect possible cases of psychological bullying in the workplace and how to determine the prevalence of this phenomenon.
  • 2
       The method employed enables the establishment of three groups of probability of suffering bullying within the workplace context, or three groups of different risk: high, medium, or low.
  • 3
       Of a sample made up of 5,000 workers from the Spanish territory, 11.2% present a high probability of suffering a situation of bullying in the workplace.
  • 4
       People who suffer this situation have nearly five times more possibilities of developing a generalised anxiety disorder.
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To establish the risk of bullying, cutoff points were applied from the short-version of the Negative Acts Questionnaire (S-NAQ ), calculated previously through ROC (Receiver Operating Characteristic) curve analysis, in a representative sample of workers from all Spanish provinces, made up of 5,000 individuals (42.8% men; 56.6% women, and 0.7% not identifying with binary gender). From said sample, 2,095 workers participated, four months later, in a screening test via a generalised anxiety disorder scale (GAD-7 ), which includes normative scores for establishing anxiety levels. A high anxiety level implies that the person is experiencing a broad anxious symptomology that indicates a possible generalised anxiety disorder.

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