By Dr Lindsay McMillan

A “disturbingly high” number of workers in the US have reported working in hostile or threatening workplaces – part of a global trend of distressed workers that has the experts worried.

Almost one in five Americans say their workplaces are hostile or threatening, according to a study co-authored by Harvard Medical School of 3,066 workers. 

Unfortunately, the US findings are largely consistent with the situation in Australia: half of Australian workers have experienced one or more serious incidences of conflict or negative impacts at work including verbal abuse or bullying.

It is no wonder then that 14 per cent of Australian workers experienced a mental or physical decline as a direct result of their work, and almost one in three have high stress levels often or always.

We need to take workplace culture more seriously. To improve Australia’s standing in the workplace stakes, a renewed focus on workplace relationships was urgently needed.

Hostility can be external, and customer facing workers bear much of that burden, but, internal hostility and a threatening culture is bred when employees do not work together.

This is typical in highly competitive and highly punitive workplace cultures and it is up to leadership to change the nature of workplace relationships by example.

Something as simple as showing employees their development options can make a big difference to employees because it shows that you are thinking about their long-term prospects.

Our research shows that the four principles to keep workplace relationships healthy are engagement, development, inclusion and life enhancement.