When mental health workers experience discrimination from a manager or a visitor, they are more likely to become depressed or anxious than if the discrimination had come from a patient, according to a new study.
Professor Stephen Wood at the University of Leicester’s School of Management and a research team looked at the effects of prejudice, including sex, racial and age discrimination, coming from different groups of people on mental health workers.
For the study, 1,733 mental health workers in the UK, including doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and support staff, filled out questionnaires that measured four states of mind: anxiety, depression, emotional exhaustion and job satisfaction.
Participants were asked whether they had experienced discrimination in the past year, as well as more general questions such as how fair they perceived their organization to be.
The researchers used advanced statistical analysis to assess whether workers who suffered discrimination at the hands of four different groups of people — patients, visitors, managers and co-workers — were more or less likely than other workers to feel distressed.
Of the four groups of people, discrimination from managers had the largest impact on the anxiety, depression, emotional exhaustion and job dissatisfaction of the mental health worker. Furthermore, discrimination from patients’ visitors had a larger impact on depression and emotional exhaustion than discrimination from the patients themselves.
Discrimination from coworkers actually had the least effect compared to that of managers or visitors.
“The finding that managers can distress workers the most can be explained by managers’ large power over staff’s working lives, including their chances of keeping a job and winning promotion. Moreover, workers feel distressed if they feel the organization employing them is not treating them fairly — and the behavior of managers is key to this sense of fairness,” said Stephen Wood, Professor of Management at the Leicester School of Management.
“Aggression from relatives and other visitors is, like aggression from managers, viewed as reflecting badly on the procedures and fairness of the organization. However, aggression from patients is not readily attributed to failings in the organization.”
Source: University of Leicester