As this is Corporate Mental Health Week, the spotlight is on work-related stress Picture-File
As this is Corporate Mental Health Week, the spotlight is on work-related stress, which Dr Renata Schoeman, psychiatrist and associate professor in leadership at the University of Stellenbosch Business School, says accounts for more than 40 percent of all workplace-related illnesses in the country with at least one in four employees diagnosed with depression.

And it is often the leaders - who should be at the forefront of reducing workplace conditions that lead to stress and burnout - who contribute to the problem, she adds.

“We’re not talking about the ‘difficult’ boss here, but the boss who is a bully - many of these could be defined as corporate psychopaths. The bullying tactics of corporate psychopaths increase conflict, stress, staff turnover and absenteeism. They reduce productivity and collective social responsibility, and erode corporate culture and ethical standards, diminishing shareholder value and returns on investment,” Schoeman says.

Workplace bullying is a major cause of work-related stress. Schoeman refers to a 2017 survey in the US which found that adults were being bullied at levels similar to teenagers - 31% of adults had been bullied at work and almost half believed that bullying behaviour was becoming more acceptable in the workplace.

“Bullying can make you ill. In the same survey, 70% or more of bullying victims had experienced stress, anxiety or depression, 55% reported loss of confidence, 39% suffered from lack of sleep, 17% called in sick frequently, and 19% had suffered mental breakdowns. Emotional stress can also cause or aggravate physical illnesses such as gastrointestinal problems (like irritable bowel syndrome) and cardiovascular problems (such as hypertension), while victims of workplace bullying have double the risk of considering suicide within five years,” Schoeman says.

Among the ways to deal with corporate bullies, she recommends you stay neutral, calm and professional; realise it’s not personal, and build a supportive network.