People who make their colleagues miserable by constantly moaning at work may actually be suffering from a mental illness, a study suggests.
Bosses like David Brent may help to trigger the condition
According to researchers in Germany, they are suffering from a new condition called post-traumatic embitterment disorder.
They said workers who whinge about their job or their boss and spread vicious gossip while doing as little work as possible may have fallen victim to it.
They suggest that devoting more time and energy to other areas of life, such as hobbies and social activities, can help them to beat the illness.
Home and work
The findings are based on a two-year study of 21 people by researchers at the University of Berlin.
They found that people who are passed over for a promotion, who have been humiliated in front of colleagues or who feel their true worth is not recognised are most likely to develop the condition.
This is new research but it is acknowledged in the field
It affects their performance at work and at home and traps them in a vicious circle of underperformance and despair.
They feel down-hearted and helpless but can also be aggressive. They are also more likely to throw "sickies" to avoid going to work.
It can affect bosses as much as workers.
In the most serious cases, people can suffer nightmares and phobias relating to their job. They feel unable ever to return to work and may even become suicidal.
However, the researchers found that those affected by the condition can sometimes raise a smile - especially when contemplating revenge.
According to the study, those with the disorder are usually people who do not have a good work-life balance and who derived too much of their self-esteem from their job.
The researchers said that a better work-life balance is key to overcoming the illness.
Professor Michael Linden who led the study said there was growing awareness of the condition.
"This is new research but it is acknowledged in the field," he said.
Professor Linden will present the study findings at the World Congress on Psychosomatic Medicine in the United States later this year.