Workplace depression

Understanding workplace depression and ways to deal with it.

Depression arises from various places and has an impact on multiple aspects of our life. One of the starting points of depression (and often ignored) can be your workplace as well. 

Workplace depression is not much talked about as we all believe that most forms of depression arise from personal issues. But I still think there are a lot of issues that arise because of our environment and the kind of people we deal with. At the end of the day, we are our environment. 

I think everyone who is working has gone through this at various stages of their careers. Let’s just call it ‘Workplace depression’ for convenience. This can happen anytime- when you join a new job, a new role, move cities or countries or someone new joins your team etc. 

Below is an account of someone who has inspired me to write this:

I am going through a strange phase in my life. I and my friend met for dinner after more than a year. She is someone I have spent 2.5 years under one roof and we did not kill each other. She tolerated me, that is quite a feat in itself. I am not an easy person, difficult but low maintenance. We met and discussed life. She has changed continents in the last year and is mostly traveling for work. Busy and hectic. I had a gruesome yet lovely time running my company. And now joined a mid-size company and moved cities.

As usual, as soon as I joined I started working my ass off. That is how I have been wired. After running my startup and fighting every day for survival ‘working hard’ is a natural instinct for me.

I am worried or I would say anxious these days. I feel anxious because I think I am not contributing the way I should at work. I am always getting scolded (yes that is the word) for such small things which I know will not move the needle. I feel there are bigger issues to be taken care off. 

Team dynamics are another issue. My team is not able to understand me and I don’t get them. There is no clear dialogue between oldies and the new ones like me and hence we are mostly confused about what each one wants. I sense a strange kind of tension in the team. I don’t like that and I am not sure what to do about it. There is an elephant in the room and everyone is ignoring it. 

The recent feedback I got from my team was that I am not giving them direction. They don’t know my opinion on the issues we face. They want me to provide them with direction and low-level details on how to implement things. This felt like a massive culture difference. In other companies, teams sit together and throw ideas at each other and we make sure the best one wins. Once we have decided on the next step the entire team should be committed to making it happen even if you don’t agree to it. In our case, the product is not complex hence standard stuff with tweaks will work wonders. What direction can you give people for standard stuff! But maybe that is how this organization is structured. But on a different note, this makes life easier. 

I have started giving algorithms to my team to do things. And I follow the standard scientific process of coming up with an algorithm using Turing Machine. Hope it will make all our lives better. 

I have also seen that people here don’t work beyond the 8-hour cycle. I think it is a culture thing. But maybe it is a good thing. I am not someone who promotes long hours without output. If you have something to deliver you put in the extra hours else you leave. “

I think we all must have gone through this stage. At least I have and I am lucky to find solutions that worked for me.

Here is what you can do:

You don’t have to take every feedback- Yes it is good to take feedback and improve but it is also important to see where are you getting the feedback from. Not everyone can give you the right feedback. Maybe what is being said is not correct, maybe people who are giving the feedback have different motives. 

What you can do- First stop feeling bad. Understand the context of the feedback. Think if you can find out the exact situations that have caused this feedback. If you can find than accept the feedback and improve. While doing this do not lose your confidence. 

 Like it is said, be very careful to whom you are asking the question you may get an answer. Sometimes it is important to NOT accept the feedback. 

Talk to your ex-colleagues or someone you can trust for the right advice. If you can not find a colleague or a friend ask your mom. Moms technically know every aspect of your life. They will tell you if the feedback is worth considering or not. This will make you feel better and help you come out of the box and get a new perspective.

Remember you are different. You cannot be what your boss or others think you should be. You have different qualities and styles of working that might not match with the image the team/boss has for the role. Do not care about it. Just focus on doing the right thing.

Maintain a healthy distance with your colleagues. This may sound counterintuitive to the prevalent trend of having close-knit teams and sharing experiences but in practical experience, it is good to have some distance. People unknowingly start judging others even with the little information they may have. This may also depend from culture to culture.   

Run/exercise- Any form of sadness, depression is majorly associated with the chemicals in our head. Run and exercise to get the right chemicals in place. 

Do all this and it will help. 

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