mental health at work - unacceptable behaviour causing work related stress

Mental Health Risks in the Workplace

The most significant mental health risks associated with activities in the work place are those that begin with work related stress. This is important to understand because work related stress almost always leads onto more serious mental health problems such as anxiety disorders or depression if not dealt with expeditiously.

In addition to the mental health risks associated with WRS, a number of other common workplace ‘events’ or ‘situations’ can also contribute or directly give rise to mental health problems, again, if not well managed and supported.

Accidents

Workplace accidents and especially fatal accidents, have the potential to affect not only those people directly harmed or injured, but also those people who witnessed or were in the immediate vicinity when they occurred.

In extreme cases employees may genuinely suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of witnessing a ‘bad’ accident. PTSD can seriously diminish a persons capacity to do even the most simple tasks.

Bullying

Workplace Bullying is much more common than employers may want to admit and it is not unheard of for senior managers to be the most culpable in this area.

Bullying is power being exercised over those who are either ‘weaker’ or who are not in a ‘position’ to argue because of the power structure within organisations. There is often a misguided belief that being a ‘manager’ in charge of sub-ordinates is some sort of a licence to ‘talk down to’ or ‘boss people about’ – this may even be representative of the way that the business ‘has always been run’, particularly for smaller firms that have been trading for many years.

Today bullying falls firmly under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and if proven can lead to a custodial sentence of up to six months.

Want to know how serious a problem of bullying in the workplace is if not managed properly? Read Green V Deutsche Bank here. Helen Green was awarded £828,000 compensation as her employer failed to stop people systematically picking on her!

Harassment (see Bullying above)

Appraisals

Employee appraisals are an excellent opportunity to discuss the progress of the individual, including both improvement opportunities and successes. They are also an activity that, if handled badly, can be cause for a lot of stress and anxiety.

This problem is two-fold. Firstly if the recipient of the appraisal is expecting negative feedback then you can be sure that prior to meeting with their appraisor that stress levels are going to run high. Secondly if the person carrying out the appraisal is not well trained, or has their own personal issues, then appraisals can sometimes turn into ‘legitimised’ beating sessions. The potential for increasing work related stress is clearly high.

Poor Management

Poor Workplace Management styles may not necessarily be solely down to the manager’s individual skills, but may be due to the ‘way’ that senior management in the business ‘dictate’ how the role should be performed. After all, somebody appointed the person to that position.

It may be, for example, that one particular manager always seems to ‘get the job done’ and the performance metrics apparently support this view, but if that manager is achieving his results through threats of ‘sackings’ or ‘demotions’ than they are essentially ‘licensed bullies’. The use of negative motivation can sometimes seem like a good solution, but in the long term it creates resentment, poor performance and increased levels of stress and anxiety.

The duty of care an employer owes an employee makes it specifically clear that it is the senior management’s duty to monitor and manage these types of problems.

Redundancy

If a business is to survive changes in the market place it is often necessary to review the human resources inside an organisation and determine if some of the workload could be better distributed to fewer members of staff. Redundancy is a normal part of the life cycle of a business and is an area where the potential for undue stress and anxiety is profound.

It is vitally important to understand the implications of the loss of a job for people. Some people will find it easier than others to cope, but some people, particularly long-term employees or elderly members of staff, may experience very serious stress related problems that remain your duty of care to manage even after they have left the business.

Organisational Change

Organisation Change may be due to internal re-structuring, being acquired by another business or simply a matter of re-engineering the company ethos.

Periods of uncertainty about jobs, new roles, changes in responsibility are all potential areas of concern when it comes to work related stress and require careful, well thought out management if they are not to cause problems.

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