Stress in the workplace

April sees the 21st Stress Awareness Month which aims to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for modern day stress in the workplace.

One person’s challenging and go-getting environment is another’s stressful hell hole and therein lies the issue about stress in the workplace – it’s not the external issues that are at fault, it’s how we as individuals deal with those issues. This makes the solution to any potential stress claim very difficult to achieve.

Few organisations actively make the workplace a place of pain and anxiety, although sometimes you wouldn’t believe it, and a quick search on the Internet shows that high street stores and big tech firms are often difficult places to work in. In addition, issues are often exacerbated by poor management, job insecurity and zero-hours’ contracts.

So why do some people suffer when others thrive?
The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) has identified the six primary causes of work-related stress. These are; the demands of the job (too much work), control of the job – or lack of it, management support – and, again lack of it, workplace relationships, what is expected of the employee and change. How employees cope with these is the key.

Early intervention in any potential stress situation is important, yet the preferred course of action for employees suggested by ACAS – the grievance – often creates more problems than it solves. Imagine you are the manager at the wrong end of allegation of poor management and bullying … human nature often dictates a robust response and defence, often accompanied with allegations of poor performance or wrong doing and so starts a downward spiral and employee/employer relationship breakdown.

So, what is the answer?
Firstly, your health as an employee is paramount. If things are going wrong then pop along to your GP. However, be aware of the “I’ll sign you off for two weeks with workplace stress” diagnosis. This rarely solves the underlying problem. Step two is to speak to a professional in the mental health field – they can help you understand where you are. Next speak to your employment lawyer to work out a strategy for getting your work life back on track positively and constructively.

Ian Pearson is an employment solicitor at AmicusLaw 01278 664060

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