Imagine a scenario where a female employee leaves office feeling worked up and frustrated. She had just heard something in a meeting that deeply disturbed her. During the meeting, her manager announced that a male colleague, who held the same pay grade as her, would be shift-in-charge. It struck her hard because she knew that she worked diligently, with higher productivity and efficiency compared to her male counterpart.
As she reflects on the situation, she questions herself. Was it because of her gender? Does being a woman somehow undermine her capabilities? Or was it because the male colleague is a couple of years older, suggesting a preference for seniority? Could it be that she lacks something essential for the role? These thoughts weigh heavily on her mind, causing her to feel distressed and agitated.
Upon returning home, still consumed by the events at the office, she finds herself unable to control her emotions. In a moment of emotional outburst, she impulsively vents her frustration by lashing out at her child and engaging in a heated argument with her husband. This incident serves as a manifestation of the intense turmoil she experienced earlier in the office.
A large part of the global population is employed in various types of workforce - both in the formal and the informal sector. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), around 60 per cent of the population is in work. All the workers have the right to safe and healthy work environment
Now let’s consider another situation. There was once a cheerful and jolly individual who suddenly transformed into a cranky and moody man. When asked about this change, he reveals that his manager had stripped him of a senior position. The reason given was that the employee’s friendly nature and amiable relationships with colleagues and subordinates indicated a lack of assertiveness and leadership qualities.
These two scenarios exemplify the numerous challenges professionals face in the workplace, which can have a profound impact on their lives. Such experiences can be devastating, and individuals often endure significant levels of stress and mental strain as a result. While discussions on mental health often tend to focus on personal life and traumas arising from there, it is crucial to acknowledge that working professionals also encounter substantial stressors and emotional burdens within their workplaces.
Managing and balancing these emotional ups and downs are essential for leading a healthy life. The mind’s impact on our overall well-being, including physical health, cannot be underestimated.
They should examine whether there are any areas in which they can improve themselves. If there is no action to be taken on their part and they feel undervalued, it may be wise to consider changing jobs. Lingering in a situation where one feels devalued is not beneficialMekhala Sarkar
How it feels
A large part of the global population is employed in various types of workforce - both in the formal and the informal sector. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), around 60 per cent of the population is in work. All the workers have the right to safe and healthy work environment.
Yet, high competition and profit-oriented corporate culture often end up in unfair decisions, unfair work burden and misjudgment of employees. Supervisors often cannot treat all the employees fairly and sometimes promote the wrong people.
World Health Organisation (WHO) identifies various risks to mental health in workplace that include under-use of skills or being under-skilled for work; under- or over-promotion; limited support from colleagues or authoritarian supervision; organisational culture that enables negative behaviour; excessive workload or work pace, understaffing; discrimination and exclusion; job insecurity, inadequate pay, or poor investment in career development and such.
These factors often take a toll on the employees resulting in a vast number of people being emotionally drained. A HR expert working in a telecommunication company, who wished his name and designation not to be mentioned, said, “Trust me, I exactly can understand how it feels not to be treated as deserved. I have seen many colleagues losing confidence, becoming moody, sometimes short-tempered and end up losing the job in which he or she was unhappy.”
Work-life balance is very essential. One should remember, he or she is the key person who can balance this. The issue or unpleasant incident occurring in the office should be left in the office. We should consciously leave our emotional baggage due to work behind in the workplace and focus on the present momentKazi Rumana Haque
What can be done
Allowing anger, discouragement, or fixating on the idea of being treated unfairly is not the answer.
Mekhala Sarkar, psychiatrist and associate professor of psychiatry at the National Institute of Mental Health, said, “Individuals should not perceive the situation as an injustice towards themselves immediately, but rather carefully consider the circumstances before making any judgments or decisions.
"They should examine whether there are any areas in which they can improve themselves. If there is no action to be taken on their part and they feel undervalued, it may be wise to consider changing jobs. Lingering in a situation where one feels devalued is not beneficial.”
Open communication can be a solution. People should not take to their personal ego if not given promotion. If after communication they are convinced that they are not fairly treated, then they can look to new job opportunitiesFahim Mashroor
A lot of individuals dwell on their mental discontent due to work-related issues and end up taking it out on their families or loved ones. This only amplifies the disturbance and complicates the situation further. Additionally, it adversely impacts their overall lifestyle, including a decline in performance at work.
“Work-life balance is very essential. One should remember, he or she is the key person who can balance this. The issue or unpleasant incident occurring in the office should be left in the office. We should consciously leave our emotional baggage due to work behind in the workplace and focus on the present moment. We must concentrate on the present and the people who are immensely valued in our lives,” said Kazi Rumana Haque the lead psychosocial counselor of Moner Bondhu.
Fahim Mashroor, an entrepreneur, co-founder of bdjobs.com, AjkerDeal, “If an employee thinks that he or she is not fairly treated, he or she can openly talk to the supervisor.”
“Open communication can be a solution. People should not take to their personal ego if not given promotion. If after communication they are convinced that they are not fairly treated, then they can look to new job opportunities,” he added.
Focus on yourself
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), negative and stressful work environments are associated with anxiety, depression, and substance misuse.
In addition to hindering productivity, workplace stress can result in burnout, sleep problems, and difficulties with focus, as stated by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Responding impulsively is not a resolution. When facing challenging circumstances, it is recommended to take a brief pause or practice breathing exercises, as advised by Mekhala Sarkar.
“The healing process should be systematic. Firstly, it is important to identify the problem causing distress, accept its existence, and then confront it. Reacting aggressively will only exacerbate the situation,” she said.
Numerous experts globally recommend individuals working in unfavorable work environments to maintain a journal, as it aids in gaining alternative perspectives and engaging in self-reflection.
Music, taking a brief walk or meditation may help. Never carry the baggage.
Both Kazi Rumana Haque and Mekhala Sarkar advise individuals to communicate their mental state with others.
“A helpful approach is to confide in someone about the pain experienced, whether it be a friend, partner, colleague, or family member. Engaging in discussions with others can offer different perspectives that can be weighed and considered. Sharing or venting can also provide a sense of relief,” noted Mekhala Sarkar.
“Spending quality time with loved ones can remind individuals that their workplace is not everything and that it does not signify the end of the world. Those who care about them will provide support and help them recognize their strengths,” she concluded.
Last but not the least, it is important to remember that believing in oneself is an invaluable asset that cannot be taken away. Maintaining a healthy mental condition is crucial for overall well-being. One should continuously work on personal growth and take the time to reflect on the situation to identify what went wrong precisely.
Nobody said life is fair. Nobody will be your yellow. If standing up for yourself requires burning a bridge, just change the route.
*Farjana Liakat works for Prothom Alo. She could be reached at [email protected]