Psychological Risks at work

Psychological Risks at work


Neither a fashionable phenomenon nor the product of problems arising solely from the individual sphere, the rise of psycho-social risks corresponds to a lasting transformation of work, due to both :

  • Developments towards more mentally demanding work organisations,
  • Incessant and very rapid changes in strategy
  • The weakening of work collectives
  • And societal transformations


1. STRESS: The major psychosocial risk

"Stress occurs when there is an imbalance between a person's perception of the constraints imposed by his or her environment and his or her own resources for dealing with them.” (Definition of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work).

It is linked to 2 factors :

  • the stressor: external factor linked to the environment,
  • Stressability: an internal factor related to individual receptivity to stressors.

Stress = Stressors x Stressability.

  • Stress is an indicator of dysfunction of the brain, an error in reasoning, in behaviour, and there are other ways to approach the situation considered hostile. Stress can be one-time or chronic. When it becomes chronic, the risk of burnout is high.
  • The symptom is an indicator of dysfunction in the body.


Burn Out is a set of reactions following situations of chronic occupational stress in which the commitment dimension is predominant.

It is characterised by 3 criteria that are essential for making the diagnosis:

  • Burnout: feeling of being drained of emotional resources. Total lack of energy for work. Lack of motivation.
  • Disengagement (depersonalisation): dehumanisation of the relationship with others. Insensitivity to the surrounding world. Negative view of others and of work (cynicism)
  • Personal frustration: Feeling of not reaching one's objectives, not responding to the expectations of those around one. Feeling of incompetence, of inadequacy. Self-esteem and self-confidence are affected.


It is important to distinguish between violence outside the company (users, clients) and internal violence (colleagues, hierarchy). We distinguish 3 levels of aggression :

  • Incivility is the absence of respect for others and is manifested by relatively benign behaviour.
  • verbal or physical aggression: tension, bullying, humiliation, slander, insults, conflicts
  • violent acts: sexual assaults, acts of vandalism, extortion, theft, homicide.

Some sectors of activity are more affected than others:

  • service activities that increase contact.
  • activities in which people handle valuable objects (banking, jewellery, etc.).

As far as "internal violence" is concerned

  • a perpetrator is generally a person who is well-integrated into the company
  • the victim is not necessarily a person considered to be fragile (woman, young person).


Definition: "Intention for a person or a group of persons to harm one or more other persons" (Heinz Leymann, Mobel, 2001).

It can take different forms :

  • refusal of all communication.
  • absence of instructions or contradictory instructions.
  • work deprivation or work overload.
  • Meaningless tasks or assignments that are beyond one's competence, being "put on the back burner", degrading working conditions, incessant criticism, and repeated sarcasm.
  • Bullying, humiliation, slander, insults, threats.

Violence, aggression and moral harassment lead to a deterioration in working conditions which can affect not only the dignity, health and professional future of the person but also the balance of their family.

They are not without behavioural consequences for the person: chronic stress with somatic manifestations (seen previously), but also psychological (behaviours or attitudes deleterious to oneself, impulsivity, anxiety, suicide risk).