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Psychological Hazards of the Workplace
For many people, a large percentage of the week is spent at work. All is well when the job/career chosen brings you great satisfaction and you enjoy your work environment along with the people in it. But what if you start to hate your job and dread going to it every day? While personal relationships and lifestyle choices play significant roles in the mental and physical health of a person, your work environment can be just as important in how you feel.
Some people brush off feelings of dread and dissatisfaction due to the belief that they must sacrifice and work hard to make a living. As such, people can go for months or even years in a negative work situation without realizing that what is causing these feelings is not only unhealthy, but certainly not acceptable. Unfortunately, it may take a considerable amount of distress or a physical health concern to arise before a person realizes that the real problem must be addressed.
What exactly characterizes a negative work situation? What psychological hazards should you be on the lookout for? The most common are:
It is a common misconception that stress at work is normal. While some level of stress is beneficial and necessary to push oneself to complete work by deadline, there are some stressors that are not healthy and should be addressed. The most common include excessive hours and workload, unreasonable management practices, lack of communication, and unfriendly co-workers.
Bullying is not just reserved for kids on the playground. Unfortunately, bullying is a behavior that can be carried into adulthood. It often consists of verbal abuse, offensive behaviors (verbal and nonverbal), which include threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, and work interferences such as sabotage, which prevents work from getting done.
Violence in the workplace consists of verbal threats of violence, physical assault, and homicide. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, two million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year. Once a target of violence, a person may avoid coming to work for fear of recurrence, and in the extreme, they may develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) such as fear, nightmares, and flashbacks.
Job-related burnout can consist of physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion and is usually the consequence of longtime exposure to areas in the workplace that lead to mental distress. If a person begins to feel fatigue and apathy and experiences poor job satisfaction and decreased productivity, he or she may be experiencing burnout.
Burnout, however, may not be the direct result of a stressful or a negative work environment but can occur when a person realizes that he or she is ready for a change. The feelings associated with burnout can serve as a signal that he or she is meant to be doing a different type of work. This may include changing the industry one works in, becoming a business owner, or creating the novel he or she always dreamed of writing.
Psychological hazards in the workplace that are not addressed and continue for long periods can negatively affect a personís physical and psychological well-being in a significant way. An increase in physical illnesses including digestive disorders (ulcers), heart disease, and hypertension along with the development of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD can be the result.
Given the amount of time most people invest in their careers, it is important to take stock of your work environment and gauge how you are feeling. It is very easy to continue on as you always have, not realizing you are on autopilot and not feeling as happy and satisfied with your career as you should be or once were.
If you realize you are on the right path and in the job/career that makes you smile, then it is time to make some changes internally to make that environment happy, safe, and satisfying again. However, if you realize you are not on the path that is best for you, then it is time to make changes. You must begin to explore the areas that interest you and best represent how you see yourself and your future.
If you or someone you know is a victim of workplace violence, please donít suffer in silence. Get help. For more information and support see the OSHA Fact Sheet.
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Content copyright © 2013 by Dr. Ilyssa Hershey. All rights reserved.
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