Bullied at Work? You’re Not To Blame

Why are some adults more likely to blame themselves rather than the bully boss bearing down on them? A recent study links self-blame (guilt) to depression and shows that this dangerous combo inhibits the ability to express indignation. The first piece of advice most targets of workplace bullying encounter when they seek help is the important mantra that it’s not their fault. This should be coupled at every turn with “seek counseling” to deal with the depression that often accompanies bullying and can lock targets into a feeling of hopelessness rather than seeking proactive solutions or leaving.

Where the “mantra” falls short is that not all workplace depression can be linked to bullying and there may be other factors that need to be explored. In Canada the CBC reports:

One in five Canadian workers may be depressed, but the CPA’s Dr. Cohen contrasts that number with a long-running statistic that says one in five Canadians — working or unemployed — will experience depression in any given year.

She says feelings of despair in the office cannot be separated from a person’s larger psychological profile.

“Depression is depression is depression,” she says. “It has a variety of determinants, some are biological, some are psychological, some are social and they all combine in certain ways.”

Horvath says it is important to remember that just because you’re depressed at the office, doesn’t mean the office is what’s making you depressed.

“People are not only stressed out over their own jobs, but also the fact that when they go home they might have children that are still at home, they may have elder care issues as well,” says Horvath. “These things get brought back into the workforce.”

Cohen says there needs to be an acknowledgement that companies can’t be solely accountable for their employees’ mental health.

“I think there’s a collective responsibility,” she says.

For employees, the key is to “match our expectations to the environment,” says Cohen.

“So let’s say you go into a workplace environment and you say, ‘You know what, my boss should do this,’ and that’s the only thing you’re holding on to to solve that problem. Likely it’s not going to be a productive coping strategy, because we can’t make people do things,” she says.

Perhaps the most beneficial thing an employer can do is direct a psychologically ill worker to treatment, says Dewa.

“We know that if people get intervention and earlier treatment, that the symptoms won’t be as severe. Managers can play a role in encouraging people to seek help,” she says.

Dewa says employers should also strive to reassure workers that taking a stress leave won’t have negative repercussions, so that when they “take time off to get that help, that they don’t feel that they’re jeopardizing their jobs.”

Here’s a link to some 10 tips how to fight depression.

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