Methods: This cross-sectional, deception survey was completed by 628 working adults (18 or over) recruited through Qualtrics. Participants were randomized to read one of twelve vignettes describing behaviors of a hypothetical coworker that varied by: 1) coworker gender, 2) coworker’s present mood (depression versus hypomania), 3) reason for the mood symptoms (relationship status change, bipolar disorder diagnosis, no reason given). Following the vignette, participants completed 17 survey questions, assessing attitudes in five areas (social acceptability, competency, reliability, advancement, and job demotion or loss). Additional areas of assessment included demographics, work history, disability status, and degree of experience with BD. Five hierarchical linear regressions were conducted for the five dependent variables (social acceptability, competency, reliability, advancement, and job demotion or loss). Regressions included four levels of predictors: level 1 (vignette characteristics - present mood, mood reason, gender match); level 2 (age, income); level 3 (disability status of the participant (yes/no)); level 4 (participant’s degree of experience with BD (none - quite a lot)).
Results: Demographics represented the general US population by age, race, and gender. All five final regression models were significant: social acceptability, F(10, 605) = 3.817, p< .000, R2 = .059; competency, F(10, 605) = 3.700, p< .000, R2 = .058; reliability, F(10, 605) = 3.900, p< .000, R2 = .061; advancement, F(10, 605) = 9.095, p< .000, R2 = .131; job demotion/loss, F(10, 605) = 20.656, p< .000, R2 = .255. Statistically significant (p < .05) predictors included mood reason, present mood, participant gender by coworker gender, age, income, disability status and experience with BD.
Conclusions and Implications: Positive work attitudes were greater towards “coworkers” who demonstrated hypomanic symptoms (versus depression), and those who disclosed their BD diagnosis. Participants who had a disability and/or had greater experience with BD, also reported more positive attitudes. Efforts to overcome the stigma of mental illness have increased over recent years. Implications from our work suggest potential progress towards public perceptions of mental illness and decreased negative stereotypes towards BD within the workplace. Strategies aimed at providing greater awareness and understanding of, and empathy toward BD in work settings may reduce stigma and, ultimately, the impact of disclosing one’s illness.