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.

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