Objectives: This study investigated the effects of workplace bullying and the psychological work environment on the well-being and subjective stress of the targets and observers of bullying.
Methods: In a questionnaire study, stress and psychological ill-health were measured, and the causes of reported stress were analyzed for municipal employees (N=949, 85% women, 15% men, mean age 41 years for the men and 40 years for the women).
Results: Both the targets of bullying and the observers reported more general stress and mental stress reactions than did respondents from the workplaces with no bullying. The targets also expressed feelings of low self-confidence more often than did those who had not been subjected to bullying. Being bullied, but also features of one's work, especially haste, excessively difficult tasks and poor goal clarity, predicted the stress reactions reported. Of the single forms of bullying, judging a person's work unjustly or in an offending manner, restricting a person's possibilities to express his or her opinions, and assaulting one's private life were the most clearly connected with all the stress reactions measured. Victim history was associated with feelings of low self-confidence. The targets of bullying used sleep-inducing drugs and sedatives more often than did the respondents who were not bullied.
Conclusions: The study shows that not only the targets of bullying, but also bystanders, suffer when someone is bullied in the workplace. Bullying must therefore be regarded as a problem for the entire work unit and not merely as a problem of the target.