Is My Job Making Me Depressed?

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depresssed work

Depression is characterized as a mental health disorder marked by loss of interest in activities, or a persistently depressed mood, which causes significant impairment in one’s daily life.  Work-related issues is one of the most common reasons people experience depression.  It has often been linked to depression due to the stress caused by employees’ inability to properly balance their work-life responsibilities. 

Various demographic variables can account for this struggle – e.g., increases in females entering the workforce, increases in dual-earner or single parent families, increased divorce rates, more families providing elder care responsibilities, and a reconceptualizing of traditional gender roles.  As such, researchers have investigated work factors such as, knowledge-based economies, use of technology, and labor shortages to name a few.  Research has shown, inner-conflict resulting from the role pressures of both work and family are mutually incompatible.  As a result, the work-life dynamic becomes a competing demand often leading to role overload, which leads to inner conflict.  This conflict takes on many forms depending on time, strain, or behaviorTime-based conflict occurs when role pressures compete for an individual’s time (e.g., working long hours in order to compete for a promotion may interfere with family-time).  Behavior-based conflict refers to behaviors required in one setting (i.e., work) and a different set of behaviors required in another setting (i.e, home).  For example, a salesperson who may be aggressive in their approach to landing clients at work, while simultaneously required to be patient and accommodating with his wife and children.  Strain-based conflict occurs when strain experienced in one role interferes with an individual’s ability to perform in a different role – e.g., an employee unable to focus while at work because they are preoccupied about their marital problems.   

Organizational outcomes resulting from conflict from competing work-family roles lead to reduced job satisfaction, low morale, low levels of motivation, as well as increased turnover rates and absenteeism.  It goes without saying that the implications of such outcomes have negative consequences for organizations, as well as for the employee.  For organizations, employees who are less satisfied with their job will not be motivated or have incentive to perform at optimal levels.  As such, production or quality of service(s) will suffer and affect an organization’s bottom line or reputation.  Moreover, increased turnover and absenteeism can lower moral among employees and negatively affect the overall organizational culture. 

For employees who are unable to balance their work-life roles, their actions affect both the organization and themselves.  These employees will often become stressed and unable to properly function both at work and home.  Employees who are stressed will inevitably begin to experience psychological effects such as, depression.  Depressed employees not only become nonproductive while working, they also can negatively impact and influence the behavior of others (e.g., while working on teams or groups).  Additionally, depressed employees carry over their “depression” at home where it impacts marital and familial relationships.  If the depression becomes chronic, this individual will begin to experience physiological problems that will affect their health – high blood pressure, anxiety, sleep disorders, etc.  As is the case with organizations, depressed employees can also affect and influence the behaviors of family members.  For example, the spouse of a depressed employee may find it increasingly difficult and challenging to cope with their partner.  Their communication and interaction between them may become ineffective or broken. 

Decisions about finances or the welfare of their children will not only require optimal levels of energy and focus from the depressed employee (much of which they will not have to give), it also requires the same effort on the part of the spouse who is now on the receiving end of the effects of depression (i.e., the behaviors and actions of the depressed employee).  Children will also be affected by the depressed employee who is not able to properly balance their work-life roles.  For example, teenagers may find their depressed parent less receptive or available.  These teens in turn, may themselves develop depression or other psychological disorders that may manifest themselves at school (e.g., oppositional deviance disorders, conduct disorders).  If this cycle is not broken, the depressed employee will inevitable spread their depression onto others both in the workplace and at home.

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Remediation begins with identification.  It is critical that the depressed employee or someone close to the employee recognize the signs of stress that often lead to depression (e.g., mood swings, short-temper, absenteeism, withdrawal).  Once properly identified, a trained mental health professional can develop a treatment plan that may require a referral to a medical doctor or addresses the causes of stress though a behavior plan (i.e., cognitive-behavior therapy).  Once interventions have been implemented, it is necessary that those closest to the depressed employee remain supportive and empathetic.     

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Kenny Borgas, PhDc, NCSP, is a licensed Psychologist and a Nationally Certified School Psychologist. He has over 20 years of experience with expertise in child development and assessment, including behavior problems often associated with ADHD, Autism, and/or Developmental Delays. He is currently a PhDc in Industrial Organizational Psychology.
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