New words about the workplace

Since I entered the workforce a few decades ago, lots of new words about it have emerged



The extra mile




Workplace Isolation



‘Always on’

Moral Injury

Psychological Safety

Workplace PTSD

What does this tell us?

All that time ago, I viewed work in a favourable light. It was the means to create a good life for myself, to achieve comfort and happiness. I thought the organisations I worked for would look after me and encourage me to flourish.

We didn’t use these words about the workplace because it was a fairly benign place, especially if you had an ‘office job’ and were a ‘white collar worker’. The worst thing that was likely to befall you was that you would die of boredom.

Now it has become a dangerous place, full of hidden perils and unknown threats.

Working for a large organisation is likely to be bad for your health, both physical and mental. The remorseless pursuit of efficiency and profit has left a multitude broken humans in its wake.

A lot of this is because we are unaware of the dangers we face. The old story that work is a benign place, where we can go to find our destiny, still resonates. Organisations perpetuate this and present themselves as benign employers, so that they can invoke loyalty and extract discretionary effort from their employees. Well, they are hardly likely to put a hazard symbol on their recruitment material, are they?

They are also unwilling to admit to the damage that their business models cause. Even when there is a tacit acknowledgement of this, they dress it up by saying things like ‘it’s high octane environment’ or ‘extremely hardcore’. They make a virtue of sacrifice, they make workaholics the heroes.

They weaponise your good intentions and turn them back on you.

This doesn’t mean that every job in every organisation is bad, or that they are to be avoided. There are many reasons to work for a big organisation. You can learn a great deal, meet a lot of people, hone your craft. You can find opportunities you wouldn’t have on your own and be challenged in many ways that lead to growth. For some, it’s the best environment for them to work in, the one that they are most likely to thrive in.

However, there is always the potential that it can become damaging. The dangers are ever present, if often hidden.

These dangers are known as Psycho-Social Risks. The sorts of things you need to look out for are

  • Excessive demands
  • Low job control
  • Aggression
  • Inadequate reward and recognition
  • Poor organisational justice
  • Poor workplace relationships
  • Bullying
  • Poor support
  • Harassment
  • Low role clarity

Even in ‘good’ environments, these lurk in the shadows. It only takes one bad boss or malign coworker to let them emerge.

Be aware of these dangers and alert to their appearance, and be prepared to deal with them or at least minimise the impacts. If you can, have strategies to avoid them.

You can never avoid the risks but you can be ready.

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