Mental health issues at work

Last updated: March 2, 2018

We spend a great deal of our time at work, and the financial and human costs of workplace mental health issues can be huge. A mental health issue can affect how successful you feel at work and your enjoyment of work, not to mention your home and community life.

Where Ideas Work, our corporate plan for the BC Public Service, continues to move workplace culture in several positive directions. Two relevant areas of commitment are:

  1. Implementing the Health 2.0 Strategy, which builds on our work to support employee health and includes a particular focus on mental health and musculoskeletal issues
  2. Exploring more options to support flexibility, reflecting the intertwined relationship between work and life

When our health is compromised, including our mental health, many aspects of work life can suffer:

  • Our capacity to do our best work
  • Workplace relationships
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Our enjoyment and engagement in work

These negative impacts can also spill over into other areas of our lives. It's clear that everyone, including the employer, benefits when employees are healthy.

Managing stress: working with your supervisor

There is a saying that employees don't quit jobs, they quit supervisors. Sometimes we work with supervisors we like and respect, and sometimes we don't. However, there's still a job to do, so here are some ideas about how to keep moving forward.

Determine the issue

To start, identify the problem. Is it a personality clash, or poor management skills? 

  • If the issue is that your supervisor's management skills don't work well with your working style, try building in different planning and structure to your working relationship, and ask your supervisor to do the same
  • If it is a personality clash, that is a different issue, and you may have to find a way to work with a personality that's difficult for you. A career coach and a short-term counsellor may be able to help you adjust

What you can do

  • Determine your role in the situation. Are you contributing to the poor relationship out of frustration, annoyance or letting your emotions get the better of you? Is it possible to just focus on the message and separate out the aspects of the delivery that you don't like?
  • Remember that you don't actually have to like everyone you work with or for but you do have to treat them with respect. That doesn't necessarily mean respecting them as a person, but it does mean respecting the situation
  • Learning some coping mechanisms can help deal with your stress and frustration. Understand what stress looks like for you, and how to control your emotional responses. It may also be helpful to keep a paper trail of interactions so you can look back on a particularly stressful situation and see it from a different perspective later on
  • Is there someone else in your office that you can work with or use as a mentor? That person may also be able to help you understand the pressures your supervisor may be under. If nothing else, you'll learn from the mentoring experience
  • It is good to have a life outside of work, so cultivate hobbies and interests that give you pleasure outside of the office
  • Are you able and willing to work with your supervisor to repair the relationship? Sometimes something as simple as meeting more regularly can help you get on the same page with expectations and create an opportunity to improve your professional relationship. You can find out what your supervisor's priorities are and how you can be their ally in getting the work done
  • None of this is meant to suggest that you should continue working in a problem workplace. If this is the case, access the resources available to you via Careers & MyHR and beyond