Work is an important part of many people’s lives and sense of self. Being industrious and generating and producing results impacts our sense of self-esteem, and of course, pays the bills. Full time employees spend a third of their adult lives at work. And, for those of us who are employed part-time, there may well be the need to juggle paid employment with other forms of non-paid work including caring for children and other family members.
Therefore, it is no surprise that experiencing difficulties or problems at work can impact our health and wellbeing. Common workplace issues include interpersonal conflict and communication problems, stress, bullying, discrimination or harassment, fears about job insecurities, managing change and experiencing feelings of dissatisfaction and resentment. Often, difficulties at work can have complex causes. For example, an individual worker may be experiencing difficulty in communicating with their boss. That could be, in part related to the employees own past experience of communicating with parents, teachers and authority figures. The boss themselves may feel under pressure by targets, the culture and procedures imposed by the wider organisation and also have their own history of and preferred ways to communicate. In turn, the organisation’s culture, procedures and targets may be based on the economic or political situation within the wider society. These factors are complex and interlinked.
A key factor in managing and responding to workplace difficulties is to begin to gain awareness of the situation, recognising and naming the different stressors and challenges. This is sometimes called a “primary appraisal”. That puts a person in a better position to then move to a secondary appraisal, that is, working out what skills and resources they have available to respond. Of course, such logical and objective thinking can be difficult when we feel overwhelmed by difficulties at work. For this reason, it can be very helpful to learn some self-help strategies to help with regulation of emotions and sensations. It may also be useful to discuss with a GP any difficulties you are experiencing, as these challenges can impact both your physical and mental health.
Speaking about your feelings and thoughts in relation to the difficulties you are facing at work can be extremely beneficial in reducing any sense of isolation and shame you may be experiencing. Talking can help with untangling mixed feelings and thoughts to gain more clarity about what is happening. Such conversations could take place with a trusted colleague or a workplace manager, or even a friend outside of work However, for many people, they find relief and support from speaking to someone neutral who will offer a non-judgemental space to explore what is going on, patterns of conflict and behaviours and possible next steps. A trained therapist can offer such a space. Your particular work-related problems and your experience of it will be unique to you, and a therapist will want to listen and understand how you are impacted and how you feel about the difficulties you experience.