It goes without saying that a crucial part of your workplace environment is your team, and more widely, your colleagues.
When it comes to mental health, they too have an important role to play. How can they impact how you feel for better or worse?
1. When your colleague is the problem
While I don’t wish this on anyone, the reality is that during your career you most likely will encounter someone who is a thorn in your side. Whether it’s a micro-manager, a bully, someone who can’t control their emotions… The list is long.
It’s less than ideal, and sometimes it can take a while before you realise the relationship is an issue. Once you have, try to take action to remedy it. For example, try telling your colleague how he/she is making you feel. Sometimes the person doesn’t realise their behaviour is detrimental so voicing your feelings can help increase their awareness.
You may want to ask to stop working with that person in the future. Sit out the end of the project, and see whether it’s feasible for you not to work with them again. Skilfully explain why you would rather not be paired with them.
Speak out and stand up for yourself. If the person’s behaviour is really detrimental you should consider reporting it. It may seem scary, but often higher management don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes which makes it difficult for them to take action.
Don’t beat yourself up for what’s happening. Being able to question yourself is important, but don’t suffer unnecessarily.
2. When you are the problem
It could be that at times, you are difficult to work with. For most people it is extremely difficult to be so tuned in to our own behaviour and how it affects others, nevertheless it’s important to have a minimum of self-awareness and try to develop it, to ensure you are not disrupting team dynamics.
If you are causing difficulties for your colleagues or team members: try to increase your awareness of your behaviour and their reactions. Try to be open to constructive feedback and view it as a way of improving your pain points so people enjoy working with you more.
Again: don’t beat yourself up – everyone has their faults. If you are trying to improve you should view that positively. When you’re feeling more confident about your progress, perhaps even ask your colleagues if they can see a change.
3. Your team is your support group
By nature a team is meant to work together. If you have a direct team, don’t forget they are there for you and you can rely on them. I mean this in terms of workload, but it can also apply on an emotional level depending on how close you are. Make sure you use your team appropriately i.e. delegating work or asking for help if you need it. Those small things can make a difference when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Your colleagues (direct team or not) can also be a source of support and friendship, which helps you get by in difficult times. I previously shared an HBR article about the importance of forming strong bonds at work. If you are in a new job or asking yourself whether forming deeper relationships is appropriate, view it as a way of making your working environment more enjoyable. View it as creating a support network and a place you look forward to going to. Beyond support, you can also learn a lot from the people you value, and may even form lasting friendships.
4. Culture fit
If you feel like the odd one out, or that everyone is against you, if you’re feeling uncomfortable in the workplace and don’t feel able to join in or form any kind of relationship, maybe this isn’t the right place for you. Each company has a culture, and this is something to take into consideration especially during the interview process. But even after you’ve interviewed and secured what you thought would be a dream job, it may not be a fit. In that case, you may want to consider leaving for a place better suited to you if you can.
My next post will cover the topic of what to do if someone else is suffering, which is also part of team dynamics in the workplace, so stay tuned for more!