Work is now the new home for many Americans, so it makes sense that the workplace has its own branch of psychology and can vastly impact mental health.
Just think of the multiple positive and negative situations: sexual harassment, office romances or unrequited love, backstabbing to get to the “top,” close friendships with co-workers and cooperation with others on an important project.
Industrial-organizational psychology is “the scientific study of the workplace,” according to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology’s website.
There are many areas of study in the workplace, and a slang term for one possible area of research is “office politics.”
“I usually think about it as a system characterizing a struggle over power and status in an organization, or a department within an organization, in which people attempt to bolster their own status at the expense of someone else’s,” said Beth Livingston, a human resources studies assistant professor at Cornell University, in an email.
However, she said there are different parts of overall “office politics” that are studied, like relationships and interactions that include bullying and harassment.
She said that studies on harassment in the workplace show “potentially harmful psychological effects,” including the possibility of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“When we are faced with little to no support from coworkers and from our boss, our stress and anxiety levels increase, our health and performance suffer, and we are more likely to quit our jobs,” Livingston said.
She said that there is competition and aggression in the workplace, but that aggression is generally indirect.
“Indirect bullying in which your reputation or qualifications are undermined behind your back can be just as harmful to your mental health as someone undermining you to your face,” Livingston said. “Research has demonstrated that work bullying increases physiological stress, anxiety and depression.”
She said that work is a major part of everyone’s lives and it’s difficult to have a work-life balance.