Battling out the Learned Helplessness Syndrome i.e., depression, at work

‘What’s the point in trying?’ — Sam seemed so helpless uttering these words. It was the third time in a row that the project she was working on failed.

Sam is a coder working with one of the IT companies in the building where I work. She’s a good friend of mine. And, now I know that she is just like thousands of other workers who are fighting the “Learned Helplessness Syndrome”, without even knowing that they are actually in a state of depression.

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Learned Helplessness Syndrome

Learned Helplessness Syndrome refers to the state when people feel helpless to avoid negative situations because previous experience has shown them that they do not have control.

In simple words, it can be termed as a state of mental depression where the person is unable to come out of a negative situation because of the post-traumatic stress. And, this is something which most of the people representing the millennial generation could relate to.

Why are we so stressed at work?

Stress is a common thing, it’s quite natural to get stressed while facing different situations in life especially work life. If we look at the numbers in regard to work stress, they are quite shocking.

According to the figures provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, US, there are more than 41 million people in America with some type of mental illness. And majority of them represent the millennial generation of working professionals.

So the question that arises here is — why are we so stressed at work? Some of the most notable reasons include:

  • Stuck at the wrong job
  • Poor working conditions
  • Bad leadership and management
  • Low employee self-esteem
  • Unreasonable demands from the employee

You can add so many more to this list, combined with the financial pressure to make ends meet.

The problem has become quite serious over the recent years, with cases of mental depression and employee burnouts becoming a common scene at offices. This is where companies need to address the problem seriously. Or else it won’t be long before we turn from a generation of millennials to a generation of stressed and depressed workers.

How can we overcome the battle?

Poor performance is the sure-shot result of learned helplessness syndrome. It can be understood that the employee feels helpless in certain situations, and therefore cannot figure out how to overcome depression. But, what comes as a surprising thing is that majority of the leaders are also clueless about how to tackle the rising cases of employee burnouts and depression.

So, what can be done to overcome this challenge of work stress? Well, I am going to share some tricks that I use here with my marketing team at ProofHub to keep work stress, and the learned helplessness syndrome, at bay.

1. Recognize the early signs

No problem is too big if it is identified in till the time it is infancy. Same goes true for depression as well. I know that you cannot be a clinician who identifies the subtle signs of depression, but you can clearly recognize the early signs like change in behavior of a person.

For instance, a serious dip in the performance. Change in attitude. Avoiding work. Not interacting with the team. Poor participation in meetings and group activities. All these could be the first signs of depression setting in the team member. Recognizing any one of these in an employee’s behavior should ring the alarm bells to you. And, you should go for an assessment with that person to know what he or she is going through.

2. Discuss the challenges

There could be ’n’ number of challenges for the employee that could lead to stress. While you might be giving your best to try and maintain a company culture of innovation, there is a big possibility that the person is unable to find his or her place within this culture. Or perhaps they have been assigned the wrong set of tasks. As a leader of the herd, you need to be always there for the team members to discuss their concerns.

Most of the time, the solution to these big problems lies in a mere discussion with the right person at the right moment. And, unfortunately that’s where most of the teams and the leaders lack.

3. Solve the problems

Identifying the problem is the first step, but as long as you are not able to find a solution for it your intentions of creating a winning team can never be fulfilled. As a leader, you could always guide the team member about work related issues like excessive work stress, communication problems, and more. You ought to be the problem solver — the person the team can look up to when it comes to any work related issue that’s causing them stress.

And, if you think that your guidance is simply not enough to help the person come out of the trouble, you can always have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

EAP, as the name might suggest, it a program designed to help an employee when he or she starts to see a dip in their performance due to workplace stress, or any other issue for that matter. The motive behind this program is to ensure that the company does not lose its most precious resource i.e. an employee.

As part of the program you could even offer them assistance from a medical expert, in the worst case scenarios.

Trust me, if a leader follows the three things mentioned above, the chances of a team member going into a state of depression are automatically reduced to bare minimum. I’ve been practicing these simple things with my team for all these years. And, I’m more than just satisfied with the outcome!

Try these simple steps and do share how they worked out for you.

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Vartika Kashyap currently runs the marketing team at ProofHub — a project management software for teams of all sizes. She is a seasoned marketing professional who is an expert in digital marketing and entrepreneurship. She’s been featured among LinkedIn’s Top Voices for the year 2016. Connect with Vartika on LinkedIn, Medium and Twitter.

Also follow our company page @ProofHub to get the recent updates about our tool, published articles, motivational quotes & presentations.

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Originally published at Linkedin

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