Work relationship issues: Dec'13

Tags: Dementia , Stress

Hello everyone, welcome to today's Live Chat about work relationships. Dr Mark Winwood is on hand to answer your questions from 11-1pm this afternoon. 

AKS asked: Is it true that in large organizations where usually the workplace stress is at high? How does one cope with the stress caused by failures to adhere to the processes? Especially when you know the people well personally.

Dr Mark Winwood answered: Hello AKS. A stress-free and conflict-free workplace would be a beautiful place indeed. However, it's just not possible to avoid conflict or the stress it may cause entirely. You have to learn to expect that conflict will become a part of your work life at some point.

The real imperative is learning to deal with conflict in a productive way. Don't let disagreements gather momentum and turn into major crises. Instead, address them as soon as possible. Resolve them instead of letting them fester.

If you feel a colleague is not following a process and causing problems for you the best thing to do is address it with them as soon as you can, explaining the effect that their behaviour has on you and

others around you in the workplace.  It is also useful to suggest what behaviour might be more helpful.

This is a productive way of dealing with the problem without having to escalate it to your manager - which indeed might have an impact on your personal relationship.



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AKS asked: What are the symptoms and effects of workplace stress?

Dr Mark Winwood answered: Hi AKS. Stress can cause changes in those experiencing it. In some cases there are clear signs that people are experiencing stress at work and if these can be identified early, action can be taken before the pressure becomes a problem. This may make it easier to reduce and eliminate the causes.

If you are suffering from some of the following symptoms it may indicate that you are feeling the effects of stress. If you find that work or aspects of your work bring on or make these symptoms worse, speak to your line manager, trade union representative or your HR department. It may be that some action taken at an early stage will ease the stress and reduce or stop the symptoms.

Emotional symptoms such as  -

  • Negative or depressive feeling
  • Disappointment with yourself
  • Increased emotional reactions - more tearful or sensitive or aggressive
  • Loneliness, withdrawn
  • Loss of motivation commitment and confidence
  • Mood swings 

Cognitive Symptoms such as -

  • Confusion, indecision
  • Cant concentrate 
  • Poor memory

Behavioural Symptoms such as -

  • Changes in eating habits
  • Increased smoking, drinking or drug taking 'to cope'
  • Mood swings effecting your behaviour
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Twitchy, nervous behaviour
  • Changes in attendance such as arriving later or taking more time off.

Please remember that these possible symptoms are indicators of behaviour of those experiencing stress. They may also be indicative of other conditions. If you are concerned about yourself please seek advice from your GP. If you are concerned about a colleague try to convince them to see their GP.

Thanks for your question!


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AXA PPP healthcare asked: We've had a question from Facebook: I’m worried that I’ve got early stages of dementia. I keep forgetting things. It’s OK when I’m at home, but I can’t afford to lose my job and I’m worried someone will catch me out soon in the office. What should I do?

Dr Mark Winwood answered: Dear Facebook user. If you feel you have early stage dementia it is important that you visit your GP to discuss the symptoms you are experiencing.  Forgetfullness can be attributed to many things other than dementia - just as memory problems are not the only symptoms of a dementia.

If you are feeling stress, anxious or have low mood it is not uncommon to have memory and concentration problems. Interestingly you identify that your problem occur at work and not at home - which may indicate that you are feeling pressure at work which is making you feel overwhelmed and perhaps causing you to forget.  You say that you are concerned about losing your job - this anxiety may actually contribute to your symptoms.

My recommendation would be to visit your GP and if dementia is ruled out perhaps consider some counselling support to address your worry and concerns. All the very best

AKS asked: Thanks for the answers. Are there counselling or any other effective way of coping with and handling the workplace stress?

Dr Mark Winwood answered: Dear AKS. If you feel you experiencing the negative effects of pressure at work and it is causing you to feel stressed counselling could certainly help you. Counselling is available via your workplace EAP (if you have one), via your GP or privately.

Intially - it is important to identify what it might be that triggers the stress for you - then simple changes such as prioritising your tasks, asking for assistance, being aware of your limitations etc... could really help you deal with the pressures you are experiencing.

AKS asked: Currently- its a globalized world, and there seems to be a thing called 'Office politics', expressing opinions, being politically correct etc. How and when does a work relationship starting to fall apart? 

Dr Mark Winwood answered: Hello AKS. People spend approximately 50 hours per week in the workplace. Because so much time is spent at work, people often develop friendships within the workplace. Individuals are more likely to have more workplace friendships than any other kind of relationship in the workplace.  

Friendships can have a positive impact on an employee's productivity. Workplace friendships lead to more cohesive work groups, more satisfied and committed employees, greater productivity, greater goal attainment, increased positive feelings about the organisation, can make both good and bad jobs better, and are a factor in preventing employee turnover and employee desire to leave the company.

However, although workplace friendships tend to have a positive impact on the employee's overall production and attitude toward the job, they can also lead to competition, envy, gossip, and distraction from work related activities because there is a more tightly webbed emotional, and occasionally physical, connection that goes beyond a typical co-worker relationship. This is when workplace relationships can fall apart. I hope this answers your question.

AKS commented: Thanks. It does.

AKS asked: When a problem occurs even after hierarchical escalations, how does one manage the situation?

Dr Mark Winwood answered: The best thing to do is to try and not personalise the issue, conflict or disagreement - Try not to take someone's conflicting opinion as a negative assessment of you as a person or as a colleague. It's natural for co-workers to have different feelings about the outcome of a problem that has been escalated. If someone has a different perspective, it isn't necessarily an indictment of your abilities as a human being or even as a worker.

Be open to constructive criticism, and keep in mind that turning a conflict into a learning situation may greatly benefit your career. However, if the other party is clearly making personal attacks on you, it's best to walk away from the situation.

You could, of course, respond with a attacking behaviour but by doing this it is not only unprofessional but could escalate the situation to uncomfortable heights with long-term negative consequences. If the attacks on you continue, document them and consider reporting the situation to a manager or the human resources department. I hope this is helpful


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AKS asked: What is your advice of a best approach to manage the workplace stress and relationship issues? I suppose the workplace stress and relationship issues are unavoidable. So, how does one keep the momentum going? Please can you consider the fact that there all type of people such as introvert, extravert or social, less social etc.,

Dr Mark Winwood answered: While some workplace pressure is normal, excessive pressure can lead to stress and interfere with your productivity and impact your physical and emotional health. And your ability to deal with it can mean the difference between success or failure. You can’t control everything in your work environment, but that doesn’t mean you’re powerless—even when you’re stuck in a difficult situation. Finding ways to manage workplace stress isn’t about making huge changes or rethinking career ambitions, but rather about focusing on the one thing that’s always within your control: and that is 'you'!

There are a variety of steps you can take to reduce both your overall stress levels and the stress you find on the job and in the workplace. These include:

  1. Taking responsibility for improving your physical and emotional well-being. 
  2. Avoiding pitfalls by identifying knee jerk habits and negative attitudes that add to the stress you experience at work. 
  3. Learning better communication skills to ease and improve your relationships with management and colleagues. 

Good luck!

AKS commented: Thanks Mark.

AXA PPP healthcare asked: A question from Twitter: My boss is always criticising me. What makes it worse is he does it in front of my colleagues. Is this acceptable behaviour or should I say something?

Dr Mark Winwood answered: Dear Twitter user. It can be very undermining and upsetting to be criticised in public. I think in order to address this issue with your boss it is important to model the behaviour you would hope to see from him/her.

So speak to them privately and explain the situation as you see it and outline the effect this has on you and also on your colleagues.  Then clearly outline how you would prefer to receive criticism in the future.

If your boss chooses to ignore your request or the behaviour deteriorates I would recommend making a note of times when the open criticism occurs this occurs and who is present when the event happens.  This information will be helpful if you choose to escalate the situation to HR - however, often having a discussion with your boss will be all you need.

All the best!

AXA PPP healthcare asked: Thank you AKS and our social media followers for today's questions. Thank you also to Dr Winwood for your helpful  answers.

We'll return with more Live Chats in the new year.

Thank you.

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