Are Work Relationships Impacting Your Mental Health?

January 7, 2020 Hannah O'Grady

So often when we think about relationships and how they can impact our mental health, we consider familial, social, and romantic relationships. However, for many people, work relationships can also play an undeniably significant role when it comes to our mental health (for better or for worse). In fact, it is not uncommon to spend more time with your coworkers than anyone else in your life. Therefore, it is essential to analyze how these work relationships could (and perhaps do) impact your mental health.

The Impact of Negative Work Relationships on Mental Health

Think back on the work relationships you have formed. After entering the working world post-college graduation, I came to find out that the majority of people in my life could recount at least one negative work relationship they had experienced; I was shocked.

I heard stories of frequent sexual harassment stemming from coworkers, as well as examples of extremely derogatory and invalidating language. I suspect negative workplace relationships can lead to poorer mental health, as well as a decrease in work productivity. I have experienced sexual harassment at my workplace from a supervisor, and this led to feelings of hopelessness and withdrawal behavior. My anxiety spiked every time I walked into the office, and I experienced difficulty focusing on the tasks I was expected to complete. When I spoke to another supervisor about this sexual harassment, I experienced intense invalidation, which further worsened my mental health. However, I have found several ways to cope with negative work relationships and improve my mental health. 

Setting Boundaries at Work 

Although easier said than done, setting boundaries and sticking to them can genuinely benefit your mental health when it comes to work relationships. Before setting boundaries, you need to reflect on what your values are and what your expectations are for workplace relationships. Once you have reflected on what limits you would like to set, you need to communicate these limits to anyone who may have crossed them, or come close to crossing them.

Assertive Communication

Assertive communication, as opposed to aggressive communication, is vital when it comes to communicating with someone who does not value your limits. There is no denying that assertive communication can be hard, especially as a woman in a workplace dominated by men. However, practicing this form of communication with friends, partners, and family members can help build up confidence. 

What If You Do Not Have Work Relationships?

Although not as common, there are certainly jobs that do not involve a large amount of human contact. When this is the case, work can feel rather isolating, particularly when you are craving those social connections. Therefore, finding healthy relationships to put your energy into outside of work can be beneficial. I recommend looking for interest groups, where you can connect with people who share the same passions and values as you do. Carving out time during the week to focus on your relationships that may not exist at work can help keep you energized and motivated. 

APA Reference
O'Grady, H. (2020, January 7). Are Work Relationships Impacting Your Mental Health?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 from

Author: Hannah O'Grady

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