Workplace Issues

Workplace Issues

Trouble at work can range from slight nervousness and anxiety around presentations and group dynamics to being bullied or harassed by colleagues.

So much of our time is taken up with work, it is important to be happy and well adjusted in our work environment.

Seeing a psychologist can help teach you techniques to deal with your circumstances and is often covered by work Employee Assistance Programs.

CATEGORY: Work & Career

SOURCES: APS | verywellmind.com | BMD

Number: #16

 

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A study released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing in 2023 (5,500 people aged 16 to 85 years old during 2020-2021) showed that more than two in five Australians experience a mental health issue in their lifetime. In 2020–21 more than 3.4 million Australians sought help from a health care professional for their mental health.

The study is published at https://abs.gov.au/statistics/health/mental-health/national-study-mental-health-and-wellbeing/2020-21

Workplace issues, workplace stress and bullying are two common presentations in psychologists’ offices.

 

Workplace Stress

Work stress has significant health consequences that range from relatively benign (like getting more colds and flus) to potentially serious (such as heart disease and metabolic syndrome).

While stress at work is common, finding a low-stress job is hard (if not impossible). A more realistic approach is to adopt effective coping strategies to reduce stress at your current job. You can take steps to manage work stress by sticking to a positive morning routine, getting clear on requirements at work, adopting smarter time management techniques, and other strategies outlined in this blurb.

Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying means any behaviour that is directed towards an employee or group of employees that aims to victimise, humiliate, undermine or threaten. It can be in the form of verbal, physical or psychological abuse.

Bullying behaviours are not acceptable. It can impact not only those employees directly exposed but others around them such as family, co-workers and friends.

Bullying behaviours include:

  • Verbal abuse (being put down or ridiculed)
  • Making fun of you or your work (including your family, sex, sexuality, race or culture, education or economic background)
  • Excluding or isolating you from people or situations
  • Intimidation (making you feel afraid or fearful to go about your work as normal)
  • Giving you pointless jobs that have nothing to do with your job
  • Deliberately holding back information you need for getting your work done properly
  • Teasing or regularly making someone the brunt of practical jokes
  • Displaying material that is degrading of offensive
  • Spreading gossip, rumours and innuendo of a malicious nature

Symptoms

Symptoms of workplace stress* and reactions to bullying are varied across individuals, but typically include things like:

 

  • Feeling scared, stressed, anxious or depressed
  • Having less confidence and self belief
  • Having your life outside of work affected, e.g. study, relationships
  • Feeling unable to trust your employer or the people with whom you work
  • Having physical symptoms of stress such as headaches or sleep problems
  • Being absent more from work
  • Panic attacks or impaired ability to make decisions
  • Incapacity to work, concentration problems
  • Reduced output and performance
  • Depression or a sense of isolation
  • Physical injury

*See also the Stress & Adjustment blurb for information about stress more generally.

Therapy | Treatment

 

How you deal with workplace issues depends on the issue. 

Treatment for general workplace stress will be different from treatment for workplace bullying, because while there is overlap between the impacts, the impacts of bullying may include issues around mistrust and power differentials in a way that other workplace stress may not.

If you are in a toxic work situation that is causing job stress, and it isn’t getting better, start to consider your options. While you shouldn’t have to get another job simply because your current one isn’t handling a situation very well, it may be your best option. You may also want to seek legal representation if your organisation isn’t appropriately handling your situation and/or if your well-being is negatively impacted.

Ways to manage other types of work stress include:

Create a Pre-Work Ritual
After scrambling to get the kids fed and off to school, dodging traffic and combatting road rage, and gulping down coffee in lieu of a healthy breakfast, many people arrive to work already stressed. This makes them more reactive to stress in the workplace.

You might be surprised by how affected by workplace stress you are when you have a stressful morning. When you start off the day with planning, good nutrition, and a positive attitude, you might find that the stress of your job rolls off your back more easily.

Get Clear on Your Expectations for the Day
A factor known to contribute to job burnout is unclear requirements for employees. If you don’t know exactly what is expected of you, or if the requirements for your role keep changing with little notice, you might become extremely stressed.

If you find yourself never knowing if what you are doing is enough, it may help to have a talk with your supervisor. You can take the time to go over expectations and discuss strategies for meeting them. This can relieve stress for both of you.

Avoid or Reduce Conflict With Colleagues
Interpersonal conflict takes a toll on your physical and emotional health. Conflict among co-workers can be difficult to escape, so it’s a good idea to avoid conflict at work as much as you can.

Don’t gossip, don’t share too many of your personal opinions about religion and politics, and steer clear of “colourful” office humor.

When possible, try to avoid people who don’t work well with others. If conflict finds you anyway, make sure you know how to handle it appropriately.

Plan Ahead to Stay Organised
Even if you’re a naturally disorganised person, planning ahead to stay organised can greatly decrease your stress at work. Being organised with your time means less rushing in the morning to avoid being late as well as less hustling to get out at the end of the day.

Keeping yourself organised can also mean avoiding the negative effects of clutter, and being more efficient with your work.

Create a Comfortable Work Environment
Another surprising stressor at work is physical discomfort, often related to where you perform most of your daily tasks (such as your desk).

You might not notice you’re stressed if you’re sitting in an uncomfortable chair for just a few minutes, but if you practically live in that chair when you’re at work, you might have a sore back and be more reactive to stress because of it.

Even small things like office noise can be distracting and cause feelings of low-grade frustration. Do what you can to create a quiet, comfortable, and soothing workspace.

Choose Chunking Over Multitasking
Multitasking was once heralded as a fantastic way to maximise one’s time and get more done in a day. However, people eventually began to realise that if they had a phone to their ear and were making calculations at the same time, their speed and accuracy (not to mention sanity) often suffered.

There is a certain “frazzled” feeling that comes from splitting your focus and it doesn’t work well for most people. Instead of multitasking to stay on top of your tasks, try another cognitive strategy like chunking.

Walk at Lunch
Many people feel the ill effects of leading a sedentary lifestyle. You can combat the physical and mental effects of work stress by getting some exercise on your lunch break.

If your schedule allows for it, you might try taking short exercise breaks throughout the day. This can help you blow off steam, lift your mood, and is very good for things like anxiety and low mood besides.

Do Your Best and Reward Yourself
Being a high achiever might make you feel good about yourself and help you excel at work, but being a perfectionist can create problems for you (and those around you).

You might not be able to do everything perfectly, every time—especially in a busy, fast-paced job. A good strategy to avoid the perfectionism trap is always striving to just do your best and making time to congratulate yourself on your efforts. You may find that your results are better and you’ll be much less stressed at work.

Listen to Music on the Way Home
Listening to music offers many benefits and can be an effective way to relieve stress before, during, and after work. Playing an uplifting song while you make breakfast can help you start the day off feeling better prepared to interact with the people in your life. Likewise, combatting the stress of a long day with your favourite music at the end of the work day can help you wind down and feel less stressed when you get there.

Create a Post-Work Ritual

Have a ritual that disconnects you from your work day and reintroduces you to home. This could be getting changed into different clothes when you get home, stopping at a park for a walk on the way home and so on.

 

A psychologist can help you work through the impacts of your workplace issue, and the impacts it is having in and on your life, while providing you with support and helping you figure out how these experiences may link to others in your life (if they do) and what you might want to do next.