GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Nearly one in five workers say they face a hostile or threatening environment at work, according to a recent study.

Rand Corp., Harvard Medical School and UCLA surveyed 3,066 U.S. workers. The study found:

  • A "disturbingly high" number of workers say they face a hostile or threatening environment at work, which can include sexual harassment and bullying. Workers who have to face customers endure a disproportionate share of abuse.
  • Nearly 55% say they face "unpleasant and potentially hazardous" conditions.
  • Nearly three quarters say they spend at least a fourth of their time on the job in "intense or repetitive physical" labor.
  • Only 38% say their jobs offer good prospects for advancement. And the older they get, the less optimistic they become.

About half say they work on their own time to meet the demands of their job. In many cases, less-educated workers endure tougher working conditions.

Brian Borre, a licensed counselor at Birch Counseling in Golden Valley, said he is not surprised by these numbers.

“Work-related stress and work hostility is a huge factor in why a lot of people come into counseling,” Borre said.

Borre recommends assertive communication.

“The onus is very much on both parties, however, I think the employee – the individually will benefit greatly by utilizing assertive communication and having these strong and clear boundaries," he said.

Borre said assertive communication is one of the main tools an employee has at their disposal.

"(When) they’re experiencing hostility, sexual harassment and any other adverse environments, utilizing assertive communication allows the individual to not only establish clear and healthy boundaries, but hopefully maintain them and at least have a perimeter in which individuals understand when someone else is violating that boundary," he said.

Which reminds us, we may have more control over stress than what we realize.