Wellness in the workplace
Well-being Week in Law: Career
by Raven Ballard, PLPC
Our careers are a big chunk of our lives. We spend hours in the workplace, out in the field, or even working from home. For many of us, our careers are a piece of our identity. Because our workplace plays such a large role in our lives and our overall well-being, it can become particularly difficult when our workplace’s environment is negative or even toxic. A toxic environment is one where a lawyer does not feel psychologically safe. A report from the Human Resource Management Journal states that workplace bullying is a severe problem affecting up to 15% of employees. This can lead to feeling trapped, burnt-out, and hopeless. Although each situation is different, the number of lawyers making complaints of anxiety about the workplace is becoming more common. A lawyer’s work can have expansive reach and a variety of professional relationships that require interaction and communication. The problem is how to maintain wellness when someplace or somebody related to our work makes us feel unsafe or unwell.
The Journal of Business Studies Quarterly states that communication is the very life blood of an organization; without open communication, less gets accomplished. When individuals feel that their voice is not heard or that the environment is not safe enough to share ideas or speak up when distress arises, this not only impacts the well-being of the individual, but the whole organization. Keeping in mind that each circumstance is different and realizing that each person is unique, here are some general tips for effectively examining yourself and your workplace to ensure that collaboration, communication, and well-being are attended to:
- Conduct an honest self-examination of yourself and the relationships you have at work.
- Identify realistic expectations. Sometimes we can be unrealistic in our expectations that everyone should get along all the time.
- Carefully read any policies that apply to the workplace environment – and document any discrepancies.
- Manage your health by monitoring food choices, alcohol intake, and sleep, and get exercise to reduce stress.
- Carefully craft language to communicate your concerns or distress when they arise in a way that does not blame others, but, rather, focuses on the problem.
- Investigate environmental changes available, such as a transfer, different assignment, different work hours, etc.
- Try to spend time with friends, around family, and doing recreational activities or hobbies to avoid dwelling on work during non-work hours.
A toxic workplace can be psychologically threatening and cause personal distress, but when we all take the time to examine our emotions and actions towards others in the workplace, we can help to create an environment that is positive and uplifting for ourselves and those around us. In each case, lawyers should consider their well-being and take steps to manage emotional and physical health while at the same time serving clients.
Brain break: Reflect on your work relationships, whether with clients, co-workers, contractors, or supervisors. Is there anything you’d like to work toward changing?
If you need to discuss how you could improve your workplace environment, or how to cope with a stressful work environment, the Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program is here to help! Please consult the Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program at 1-800-688-7859 for free, confidential counseling.
Conrad, D. (2014). Workplace communication problems: Inquiries by employees and applicable solutions. The Journal of Business Studies Quarterly. https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/document?repid=rep1&type=pdf&doi=3e7799bf431b8660f4a51f5d6143a461e33697a7
Glambek, M., Matthiesen, S. B., Hetland, J., & Einarsen, S. (2014). Workplace bullying as an antecedent to job insecurity and intention to leave: a 6-month prospective study. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1748-8583.12035