Is workplace stress eroding your psychological health? And is it dealing with the difficult people at work that you find most challenging?
[Not sure you are stressed or actually depressed? Take our quiz to find out.]
Do you feel taken advantage of by colleagues?
If you are constantly complaining that others are using you at work, then it’s worth looking at your capacity to set personal boundaries.
Sure terrible things will happen if you say no to others? It’s likely you grew up in a household where you were not allowed to make choices for yourself or you’d be punished.
But as an adult, saying no effectively is really just a matter of learning and practise. And when you learn to do it well, for the most part, your colleague simply goes and finds someone else to ask.
Is it just a constant feeling that others at work don’t like you?
Sometimes we think others are being ‘difficult’ when really it’s just that we are frustrated by our own need to feel accepted. This sort of codependency generally stems comes from growing up in a family where you were taught you must ‘earn’ love and attention.
An environment as varied as an office will always involve dealing with personalities who are impossible to please. You might even be dealing with people who have personality disorders, including narcissistic personality disorder, meaning they simply can’t get along with anyone. Plus, we all have sides to us that some people won’t like. It’s normal and unavoidable.
What is the worst thing that can happen if someone doesn’t like you at work?
And how much better would you feel if you just accepted the difficult person in question will never like you and gave up trying to make them do so?
Do you do this daily, or do you just keep saying you will?
Sure, you’ve taken all the staff workshops on stress management. But are you actually putting the tools you’ve learned into practise daily?
Stress has a snowball affect, with little things adding up to big blowouts. And daily habits really are the best way to stop the snowball growing.
Journalling is great for this, and can be done right at your desk without anyone even knowing.
And then of course there is mindfulness. We all have heard of it or tried it by now. But actually committing to a daily practise of even just 10 minutes is proven by research to make a palpable difference in your stress levels and helps you to take things less personally.
[Don’t know how to do mindful meditation or what mindfulness really is? Read our comprehensive and easy to follow Guide to Mindfulness.]
Have you lost sight of this crucial fact?
No matter how much you love your job, no matter how many hours you work, and no matter how good you are at what you do, you are not your job.
Losing sight of this means you attach your sense of self worth to your career, which means every time something goes wrong, like a colleague talking behind your back or a boss who criticises you, your life will feel upside down.
Stop this vicious cycle by investing in the you beyond the workplace. Make time for healthy relationships, learn good self care, and have at least one hobby you do just for your own pleasure. Whether that is salsa classes, painting, or week long hikes in the mountains, schedule in this hobby like you would important meetings. Your psychological wellbeing depends on it.
Are you remembering to keep this skill updated?
Even if you think you are a good listener and speaker, take the time every few months to troubleshoot your communication skills.
Work at seeing other perspectives, catching assumptions, and speaking clearly even when under stress. Ask friends you trust for feedback, or to help you practice being clearer with your way of sharing ideas.
Have you dared to ask this powerful question?
Are your colleagues the real reason you are stressed? Or is it really something else entirely, and you are projecting your stress onto coworkers?
If there is an issue that is more than we want to deal with, we might focus instead on a more acceptable source of stress, like the workplace.
Take the time to get really honest with yourself. If the real stress is a marriage in turmoil or a horrible sense you are following your parents’ dreams for you instead of your own, then it’s time to turn and face things.
Does the situation at work seem oddly familiar?
Do you always feel unappreciated by colleagues no matter where you end up working? Or always end up with a boss who shouts at you?
It can pay to look to your family of origin and question if this is a familiar pattern. Did you have father who always yelled at you like your boss, or a mother or sibling who took you for granted like your colleagues?
The psychology here is that we tend to unconsciously choose to relate to others in ways that repeat unresolved issues from childhood, including ways of being around others at work.
Do you need to find support?
There are difficult people, and then there is abusive behaviour. If the employee in question is in any way harassing or abusing you it is not about managing it, it’s about seeking help. Speak to your superior or to a HR representative and take the appropriate steps.
As for seeking psychological support, workplace stress is a leading reason people seek therapy. If conflict at work is depleting your sense of self worth, if you worry you are addicted to working, or if you just sense that your problems at work might be connected to childhood issues, a counsellor or psychotherapist is recommended.
Speak to your GP for a referral, or check your workplace insurance plan to see if you are covered for private therapy.
Harley Therapy connects you with London-based counsellors and psychotherapists trained at helping you with workplace stress. Not in London? online therapy helps you wherever you are.
Have a question about dealing with difficult people at work? Or want to share an experience? Use the comment box below.