Monthly Archives: February 2012

Why Today’s Workplace Creates Emotional Conflicts

One of the most poorly understood—though frequently experienced—realities of work and career today is that success often takes an enormous toll on people’s emotions and overall lives. It sounds ironic, I know, but it’s true. And to the extent it’s noticed at all, the downside of success is usually assumed to be understandable stress or work-life balance problems of modern lives.

But that misses the larger problem: Career success often generates a range of emotional conflicts that affect the person, job performance and ultimately the company’s success. Conflicts range from questioning the value and worth of the toll you pay along the path to success to more troubling problems. For example, feeling constrained by long hours, work that often lacks meaning, vigilance about political conflicts that can suck you in, and frustration with management practices. More serious emotional problems include anxiety, depression and chronic physical ailments. All of the above can be triggered by successful career advancement.

Though the problem is underrecognized, it’s widespread. Periodically a new survey appears, documenting depression in the workplace and dissatisfaction with leadership. Other research confirms that demoralization rises when work isn’t very engaging; or when opportunities for continued growth and expanding competencies are too limited or blocked. It’s time we recognize the negative psychological impact that the management culture and the “requirements” for success can have on people and the organizations they work for. They exist at great cost to both.

When I investigated and wrote about career-related conflicts this a few decades ago I found Continue reading

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The End Of Mental Health — And Why That’s Good

The idea of mental health—as we know it—has reached a dead end. It doesn’t describe much of anything relevant to people’s lives today. If you Google “mental health,” most of what comes up describes mental illness, not mental health. Both practitioners and researchers focus more on understanding and treating emotional disturbance, than on describing what health is or how to build it.

That’s good, actually, because it opens the door to a needed, broad re-thinking of what psychological health looks like in today’s world—in your emotions, thoughts, attitudes, values and behavior. In this post I explain what’s brought us to this dead-end, and I sketch some features of psychological health that reflect new challenges and realities of today’s tumultuous world.

First, let’s look at why we’re at this dead-end. The aims of treatment for emotional conflicts—whether via medications, psychotherapy or a combination of the two—have been, in essence, good management, coping and adaptation. That is, management of emotional conflicts that create dysfunction and symptoms like depression and anxiety. Coping with stress or sustained conflict in your work, relationships and other parts of your life. And good adaptation or adjustment to the norms, values and conventional behavior of the society or group you’re part of. Those goals are useful, per se, but there are three problems with them. One is that Continue reading
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