Leadership and its Impact on Employee Mental Health

For many people, the workplace is their second home. The amount of time spent at work will inevitably impact someone’s mental health for better or worse. It should not come as a surprise that ongoing negative experiences in the workplace will flow into your personal life, making you more tired, stressed, depressed or burnt out.

While most jobs entail a degree of stress, if you start dreading the idea of going to work, you might deal with a toxic workplace. Research evidence shows that the costs of toxic work cultures can be more serious in terms of overall well being than we imagine – in fact, a study published by the British Medical Journal shows that a negative work environment can increase employees’ risk of depression and other psychological issues.

Knowing the implications of toxic workplaces, it is worth finding out how we can spot them early in our careers and protect our mental wellbeing as much as possible. In this article, you will find out more information about signs of a toxic workplace as well as valuable tips on how to cope with a toxic workplace environment.

Signs you’re working in a toxic workplace

If you already worked in a job that negatively impacted your mental health, you might already know what a dysfunctional work culture looks like. Besides the ongoing stress it creates in its employees, a negative workplace can decrease one’s overall quality of life and impede professional growth. Some common signs of a toxic workplace are:

Endless office drama

When there’s always rumour and gossip floating around the office, it’s almost impossible not to feel anxious or overwhelmed. In a toxic workplace, people will focus on drama instead of prioritising productive conversations that help them get to know each other. As a result of this, the overall workplace environment will feel rather hostile, leading to low employee morale.

Difficult leaders

A difficult boss will always never make you feel good or skilled enough. No matter how much you’re trying to improve, they will always have something to criticise or pick on. As a result, your self-esteem might suffer, and you might end up doubting your experience, expertise, or skill set. Difficult leaders offer criticism without being willing to listen to their employees or appreciate their work.

SHRM Magazine research – The Cost of a Toxic Workplace Culture: How culture impacts the workforce and the bottom line – showed that almost half of employees left their job specifically because of their manager’s behaviour.

There’s no room for growth

Another sign that you might be working in a toxic environment is a total lack of opportunities for progress. No matter how many times you try to contact the HR department about promotions, raises, or new assignments, you will always be met with vague answers. You are unable to see far ahead in the future and there is no clear direction in which you can progress from your current job. If you are interested in professional growth but your current workplace is unable to support that, your motivation and wellbeing might be affected in the longer term.


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How is employee mental health affected?

A toxic workplace invariably impacts employee mental health. Although the signs might be unnoticeable at first, working in a dysfunctional environment is detrimental to your mental and physical health. Besides, key aspects of work performance – such as productivity and project outcomes – are also affected.

Employees who work in toxic work cultures might notice higher levels of stress as a result of poor communication, inefficient leadership, and lack of support. When stress becomes chronic, it increases the risk for more serious mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, data shows that the costs associated with depression and anxiety in the workplace are estimated at around $1 trillion per year in lost productivity.

Yet, mental health issues caused by workplace stress do not stop there. Many employees find that a stressful job impacts their entire quality of life and makes them less likely to enjoy fulfilling relationships or hobbies. In turn, mental illness can lead to problems with sleep, which creates a vicious cycle between workplace performance and employee mental health.

Risk factors associated with a toxic workplace culture also lead to lower self-esteem. When not appreciated for their work or offered constructive criticism, employees may feel enormous pressure to meet exigent demands.

How to handle a toxic work environment

When dealing with a toxic workplace, you have to ensure that you look after yourself to the best of your capacity. Since you cannot rely on your workplace to offer you the resources and support you need to thrive, it is highly important that you take all measures to ensure your mental and physical wellbeing.

You can start by focusing on things that are still within your control. This can mean:

  • Only engaging in conversations that do not harm your mental health
  • Setting firm boundaries for overtime work
  • Prioritising rest and relaxation after work and not replying to emails and calls in your personal time.

If you are optimistic about making changes in your workplace, you can discuss the most pressing issues with someone higher up in your organisation or the human resources department. However, please note that changing an entire organisation from the ground up without the full implication of everyone can be very difficult to achieve. This is why it’s always a good idea to be realistic and honest about what you can do and encourage everyone to do their share of work.

Prioritising mental health at work

When you can’t change your job or the environment you work in, the best idea is to ensure that you look after yourself at work as much as you can. In the end, workplace mental health also comes down to self-management and how well you can assert yourself and your needs.

If your colleagues engage in toxic workplace behaviours, the best idea is to remain neutral and uninvolved or seek further help. It’s important to remember that you have autonomy and the power to choose which types of behaviours you allow.

How can SupportRoom help with workplace mental health?

If you are not sure how to best support yourself or your organisation, one thing you can do is get in touch with specialist support.

At SupportRoom, we offer flexible therapy to employees and individuals who need mental health interventions but cannot wait for appointments or scheduled sessions. We know that work-related stress can be very demanding on our psychological health, hence we help you look after your mental health in a flexible and convenient manner that works for you.

If you want to find out more information about us or schedule an appointment with a therapist, mentor or coach, just get in touch.

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