We arguably spend more time with our colleagues than we do with friends and family. Yet, while smooth and productive relationships are key to getting the job done, in practice it doesn’t always work that way.
Envy, competitiveness and politics can sometimes puncture the working week, creating a cycle of stress and overwhelm that can be exhausting and depleting. Understanding dynamics in the workplace, and how to make them work for you, can help you create more harmony in both your personal and your professional life.
People who seek career counselling generally have a good idea of what they’d like to get out of the process, and need support in navigating their way there.
Career counselling can support you through a tricky point in your career, perhaps when you’re going for promotion and need to develop new skills and experience, or perhaps when there’s a merger in your company and people are jostling for position.
Career counselling can also help you identify your core skills, aptitude and drives, understand what motivates you and gives you meaning, and ensure you play to your strengths in your professional choices. It can point you in the direction of new courses, careers and options to help you feel more fulfilled.
Losing your job can make you feel like a failure. While the reasons for redundancy may be due to external factors such as budgets, politics or restructuring, a redundancy can cut to your core and bring up feelings of shame and worthlessness – especially if your identity and sense of self is tied up in your professional status.
It may be hard to see things from a positive perspective, but a crisis can sometimes be a cloud hiding the silver lining of opportunity. A redundancy can be – and often is – just the chance you need to reflect on the path you were taking and decide to explore an exciting new avenue, perhaps through retraining in a new field, or setting up your own business.
Counselling after redundancy can help you work through feelings of loss and potential changes in lifestyle. It can also help restore faith in your own abilities, open your eyes to the multitude of options open to you, and help you believe in yourself again.
Work Relationship Problems
The workplace can sometimes present conflicted situations. This may be the result of poor communication between line managers and employees, especially when big changes are going on and whispers in the corridor are creating unrest and insecurity. Inadequate communication can cause all kinds of responses in employees – from stress and anxiety to anger and absenteeism. These behaviours can affect worker productivity and result in high staff turnover.
Other workplace behaviours that are tricky to navigate include competitive colleagues who may use passive-aggressive tactics to achieve their goal, workplace bullying, discrimination, no recognition, a lack of work-life balance, personality clashes, excessive pressure to meet deadlines, no professional development, and lack of financial progress or promotion.
Negative interpersonal relationships that you form at work can have an adverse effect on your career and job success. In contrast, harmonious relationships with your co-workers can give you a strong sense of achievement, happiness, and success. Sometimes unconscious factors are at play here – for example, when a critical boss can remind you of your distant and controlling father, or when colleagues do things behind your back in a way that your siblings used to do. Therapy can help unpick those dynamics to separate past from present and help you find coping strategies when anxiety or fear strikes in the workplace.
Imposter syndrome describes fear and self-doubt so strong that you are not only convinced that you aren’t good enough to do certain things, but also that you can’t recognise your past achievements. Those with imposter syndrome feel highly inadequate, often despite external proof that they are doing well.
If you have imposter syndrome you may be afraid that others will eventually ‘find out’ and you will be exposed as a ‘fraud’. You may be preoccupied, or even feel terrified, that you won’t be able to ‘keep up’ with your success. People with imposter syndrome find it very difficult to internalise their successes and achievements; they therefore do not benefit from the same self-esteem and self-confidence that other high achievers might.
People with imposter syndrome are often highly capable individuals who are deemed successful by external standards. If you have imposter syndrome you may feel that all of your success and achievements are the result of some sort of fluke or good fortune. You may also find that you are hesitant to repeat processes that garnered you success on one occasion, out of a fear that you would fail to replicate this success as you don’t have the skills to guarantee it.
The always-on culture can be exhausting. A work smartphone implies you’re meant to be available whenever your boss needs you, and you can often find yourself compulsively checking for emails in the evenings, at weekends and even during your holidays – just to stay on top of everything. Work can encroach on so many areas of your life that you can so easily tip into burnout.
Work-life balance can seem like an unachievable feat. Time for yourself and your family is such a premium, and yet it often gets edged out because you’ve got a deadline to meet. It’s often only when you get pushed to your limits that you decide to take stock and claw back some of that time for yourself.
Work-life balance CAN be achieved, and a therapist can help you define how you can achieve it. You could decide to leave your desk on time twice a week. You could factor in a gym visit on your way to work instead of flopping on the sofa at the end of a busy day. You could switch your phone off at weekends and pick up again on Monday. You could also arrange to have a day working from home, even once a fortnight, to give yourself some respite from the daily commute. Your stress levels – as well as your personal life – will thank you for it.
See also Work Addiction.