There’s nothing like a bad work situation to trigger a downward spiral. As the UAE’s workforce prepares to head back to work, the responsibilities, pressure and stress of the workplace are rushing back, too – with the added element of job insecurity. Resha Erheim, a Canadian certified counsellor based at the Camali Clinic in Dubai talks about how to deal with workplace stress, anxiety, lack of confidence and bullying, whether from a colleague or your boss.
How big a problem is anxiety in the workplace in Dubai? What should people do?
As in any major city in the world, anxiety in the workplace in Dubai is a big problem, especially in corporate companies. To deal with anxiety or stress, one should learn to manage priorities better, to time-manage effectively, delegate when possible, respect boundaries, say no when necessary, to relax, practice hobbies, get adequate sleep, exercise, meditate and be mindful and get some support. Speaking to your boss can be helpful when you think you can’t manage so you can come up with solutions together.
What kind of complaints do you hear? What are the biggest causes?
Most of the complaints I hear are to do with anxiety and stress coming from a job or different relationships (whether with family or partners). Conflict in relationships, financial difficulties, family responsibilities, significant life changes (like having a baby or coming to a new country or job), work-related problems, self-esteem and perfectionism are among the biggest causes of stress and anxiety.
How do you coach someone who is miserable in their job or worried about losing it?
In those situations, I try to help them cope and manage the anxiety, listen to them and let them vent, help them gain awareness and understand their situation better, come up with some solutions, like changing some aspects of their work environment or looking for a new job. I remind them of their strengths and resilience, help them integrate self-care into their daily routine to make sure they exercise, sleep, eat well and meditate. Sometimes, it is better to leave a job we are miserable in for the sake of our own mental health.
What about long-standing issues – for example an irrational or over-demanding boss?
I think if you can’t work with an aggressive boss and somehow bridge the gap and reach an accommodation between the two of you, it is better to look for another job and just cope with it until you can leave. Otherwise, with a demanding boss, try not to take things personally. Consider the reasons why your boss is demanding and confront him or her in a calm, gentle way. Be assertive when possible, set mutual priorities and expectations, try to remain positive and focus on what you can do and what you are good at.
What is the best way to handle a workplace bully?
Keep a record and document the bullying in case you will need it. Don’t take it personally and don’t take it to heart. Their thoughts and actions have more to do with them than you. Confront the bully calmly, one-to-one, and get them to understand how his or her behaviour is affecting you and suggest what they could do differently. Stand up for yourself assertively, put some boundaries in place and reduce contact with them. Familiarize yourself with your employer’s bullying policy, if there is one, so that you know your rights. Report the bullying by speaking to your manager or HR department or, if the bully is your manager, take the complaint higher up. Get support from colleagues, friends and family.
What should you do if you notice a colleague who is struggling with their mental health?
Gently approach the colleague and express your concern for him/her, offer to listen or help. Let him/her talk and listen without judging. Empathize with them and offer to help find resources in the community that may help, such as books, support groups or a therapist and then perhaps offer to go with them to the first session for support.
How can we make things easier on ourselves?
Negative modes of thinking like generalizing, catastrophizing or predicting negative outcomes can create a larger burden for people and make everyday life harder. Instead, focus on the present, focus on facts and what is real, look for evidence to refute and challenge your negative thinking and strive to come up with other, more balanced ways of viewing situations.