Thursday 21 December 2023

Coping with Authority at Work

In today's fast-paced and competitive business world, authority and hierarchy are commonplace. While authority is necessary for maintaining order and achieving organisational goals, the dynamics between individuals and those in positions of power can often impact mental health. How we deal with authority at work is a crucial aspect of preserving our mental wellbeing.

Understanding the impact of authority on mental health

The relationship between authority figures in the workplace and employees is multifaceted. Research has shown that negative experiences with authority figures, such as team leaders, line managers and directors, can contribute to stress, burnout, anxiety and even depression. The presence of a strict hierarchy can intensify these issues, leading to a range of negative issues, such as:
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anger
  • Resentment

It’s important to recognise the power dynamics within the workplace, as feelings of powerlessness or inequity can significantly impact an individual's emotional wellbeing. Also, excessive control and micromanagement can create a toxic work environment that negatively affects motivation, creativity and overall job satisfaction.

Coping strategies for managing authority-related stress

Communication and assertiveness
Open and honest communication with those in positions of authority can help relieve stress. By having regular conversations, we can clarify expectations, voice any concerns we may have and listen to constructive feedback. Developing assertiveness skills can help us to communicate effectively and assert our needs without compromising professional relationships.

Building support networks
Surrounding yourself with supportive colleagues and mentors can help reduce any negative interactions with those in authority. By creating a network of like-minded individuals, we can gain perspective, seek guidance and share our experiences, which will lessen the burden of hierarchical stress.

Practising relaxation techniques
When faced with challenging situations involving management, practising relaxation techniques can help us manage our stress in a more professional and calm way. Deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation and engaging in physical activities are all effective ways to achieve balance and maintain mental wellbeing throughout the working day.

Time and stress management: Developing effective time and stress management skills is beneficial when dealing with authority at work. By creating a schedule that prioritises tasks, setting realistic goals and practising regular self-care, we can prevent feelings of overwhelm and ensure a healthier work-life balance.

Focus on individual growth: Shifting the focus from external factors to personal development can help reduce the impact of authority-related stress. By focusing on improving our skills, expanding our knowledge and setting goals aligned with individual values, we create a greater sense of purpose and autonomy. A study conducted by Helena Lopes, Sérgio Lagoa and Teresa Calapez, published on Cambridge University Press, found that autonomy at work is key to an employee's job performance and job satisfaction as well as improving their mental health.

Organisations must also recognise the impact of authority on employee wellbeing and provide supportive leadership practices. A harmonious balance between a healthy power dynamic and respect for individuals can enhance job satisfaction, productivity and mental health in the workplace.

Wednesday 13 December 2023

How People Pleasing Can Damage Your Career

While it’s important to collaborate and build positive relationships in the workplace, excessive people-pleasing can have negative effects on our career advancement as well as our mental health. Recognising the signs of people-pleasing, setting clear boundaries and learning to prioritise ourselves helps us work toward achieving a healthy work-life balance and forging long-term career success.

What is people-pleasing?

People-pleasing refers to a psychological pattern of behaviour where individuals feel an overwhelming need to seek approval and satisfy the wishes of others. This often stems from a fear of rejection or criticism, leading people to put their own needs and desires aside in favour of meeting the expectations of others.

While initially people-pleasing may seem harmless, it can gradually take a toll on mental health and in some cases, physical health. The constant need to please others can lead to chronic stress, anxiety and burnout. Over time, these negative emotional states can become debilitating, affecting performance, decision-making and overall wellbeing.

Effects of people-pleasing

1. Surrendering control

By consistently prioritising others' needs, we often lose control over our own career path. Instead of pursuing goals that match our interests and aspirations, we can fall into a pattern of continually seeking validation and approval. As a result, personal growth and professional development may get stifled, limiting opportunities for advancing our career.

2. Undermining confidence

People-pleasers are prone to second-guessing themselves as they constantly seek reassurance and validation from others. This perpetual reliance on external validation can damage self-confidence and diminishes our belief in our own abilities. In turn, this lack of confidence can negatively impact our professional presence, assertiveness and ability to take risks – qualities that are often essential for moving forward in our career.

3. Lack of boundaries

A key characteristic of people-pleasing is the tendency to struggle with setting clear boundaries. By trying to accommodate everyone's needs and demands, we often find ourselves overwhelmed with tasks and responsibilities that extend beyond our capabilities. This can lead to work overload, poor time management and decreased productivity, ultimately hindering career growth.

Debbie Sorensen, a Harvard-trained clinical psychologist, says that people-pleasers “tend to be very kind, thoughtful people, which makes it that much harder for them to set boundaries, not take on too much work or get emotionally invested in their jobs”. Sorensen goes on to say “It can be uncomfortable to set boundaries at work, but next time you’re tempted to pile more responsibilities on your plate, pause and ask yourself if you really want, or need, to take that on. And fight the knee-jerk reaction to say ‘yes’ to everything”.

4. Perceived as indecisive

Most employers value individuals who possess strong leadership qualities, including the ability to make decisions confidently and assertively. However, people-pleasers often struggle with decisive action, as they may fear conflict. This perception of indecisiveness can prevent growth and progression of a career, particularly in roles that require strong leadership skills.

By breaking free from the confines of people-pleasing, we can gain confidence, assertiveness and the ability to make decisions that are right for us. Striking a balance between meeting others' expectations and prioritising personal growth and fulfilment can help us to accelerate our career and improve our happiness and wellbeing.

Friday 1 December 2023

Avoiding Drama at Work

Mental wellbeing plays a pivotal role in leading a fulfilling professional life. One aspect that significantly affects mental health is the presence of drama in the workplace and toxic environments. Conflict, gossip and negative interactions can take a toll on our mental wellbeing, leading to stress, burnout and decreased job satisfaction.

A study by Cy Wakeman, drama researcher and leadership consultant, says: “Unfortunately, traditional leadership tools and approaches that are taught and used in many workplaces are fueling rather than defusing this drama. But the role of a leader should be to eliminate emotional waste by teaching good mental processes.”

Prioritising mental wellbeing in the workplace involves creating a culture that avoids drama and fosters positive relationships. Building a supportive work environment is a collective responsibility that requires effective communication, conflict resolution, empathy, emotional intelligence and mindfulness. By implementing these strategies, and all pulling in the same direction, employees can enjoy a drama-free work environment.

1. Create a positive work culture - One of the most effective ways to avoid drama at work is by fostering a positive work culture. Employers and managers should lead by example, promoting open and transparent communication, respect and empathy among colleagues. Encouraging a collaborative and supportive work environment cultivates a sense of camaraderie, reducing any conflict and drama.

2. Effective communication - Miscommunication or lack of communication can often lead to misunderstandings and tensions among employees, resulting in workplace drama. It’s vital to focus on improving communication skills within the workplace. This can be achieved by encouraging active listening, providing constructive feedback and promoting transparent and honest communication. The more open and clear the communication, the lesser the chances of drama arising from misinterpretations or unresolved conflicts.

3. Conflict resolution - Conflicts are bound to arise in any workplace, but how they are handled determines whether they escalate into drama or are resolved amicably. Implementing effective conflict resolution strategies can help avoid unnecessary drama. Encouraging employees to address conflicts directly, openly and respectfully promotes healthy dialogue and understanding. Mediation or seeking assistance from managers can also be helpful in resolving conflicts before they escalate.

4. Encourage empathy and emotional intelligence - Empathy and emotional intelligence are essential qualities that can help prevent drama at work. Encouraging employees to understand and empathise with their colleagues' perspectives fosters an environment of mutual respect and compassion. Promoting emotional intelligence, including self-awareness and self-regulation, helps individuals manage their emotions effectively, reducing the likelihood of dramatic reactions to challenging situations.

5. Set boundaries - Preventing drama requires setting and respecting clear boundaries in the workplace. Guiding employees on appropriate behaviour, ensuring confidentiality and discouraging gossip can create a safe and drama-free environment. Establishing policies and protocols regarding acceptable conduct at work helps set expectations and prevents potential drama triggers.

6. Encourage team building activities - Team building activities are an effective way to strengthen relationships among colleagues and reduce potential workplace drama. Engaging in activities that promote collaboration, trust and respect can help create a cohesive and supportive team. When individuals feel a sense of belonging and connection within their team, they are less likely to engage in gossip and backbiting.

7. Practise mindfulness - Another powerful strategy for avoiding workplace drama is practising mindfulness. Encouraging employees to engage in mindfulness exercises, such as meditation, deep breathing or simply taking short breaks, can help manage stress and improve focus. By cultivating a state of present-moment awareness, individuals can better navigate challenging situations and respond rationally rather than impulsively.