A study of the effect of work environment on employee mental health found that a negative environment, defined in the study as poor team climate, was significantly associated with depressive disorders and antidepressant use.

Today's work environment is unquestionably stressful, and many employees-maybe even you-bring their fears, anxieties, and worries to work with them, where they tend to spread like wildfire. Furthermore, the National Institute of Mental Health reports an increase in a little-known disorder called Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), which is marked by episodes of unwarranted anger. More than seven percent of adults (almost 16 million Americans) suffer from IED. It may precede, or predispose individuals for, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. In the workplace, such outbursts can create or worsen a stressful environment.

Unless you are prepared to leave your job, you must find ways to cope with a less-than-ideal workplace. If you suffer from depression, this may be challenging; however, you need to take steps to protect your own mental well being.

The first thing to realize is that while you may not have control over others' behavior, or certain aspects of your workplace, you do have control over how you feel and respond to it. Reframing the negative situation this way is an important step to healthy coping.

Here are a few other ways to cope in a negative work environment.

  • Notice warning signs that indicate you're losing your cool. You may be clenching your teeth or your hands, breathing fast, or pacing. Your heart may pound and you may find you have trouble concentrating. Pay attention to how your body feels. Take deep, slow breaths. Relax and stretch or massage away tension.
  • If you're a parent, you know how effective it is to put your child in timeout to break a bout of unacceptable behavior. Much as you might like to, you can't put your coworkers in timeout, but you can take a timeout yourself. Create some space between you and your negative work environment, even if it's just a few minutes. If you can, take a walk or engage in some other physical activity.
  • If workplace stress is making you depressed or exacerbating your depression, seek professional help. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy teaches you to relax and develop new ways of thinking and reacting to negative work situations.
  • Be part of the solution. Negativity is extremely contagious. Refuse to add fuel to the fire.


National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Mental Health. "Intermittent Explosive Disorder Affects up to 16 Million Americans." Web. 5 June 2006.


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"Workplace Stress - General." Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Web.


U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. "Promoting a Positive Workplace Environment." Web. http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/emergencypreparedness/resilience_resources/support_documents/supervisorintra/intradeployment_supervisors.html

Sinokki, M., Hinkaa, K., Ahola, K., Koskinen, S., Klaukka, T., Kivimaki, M., Puukka,P., Lönnqvist, J., and Virtanen, M. "The association between team climate at work and mental health in the Finnish Health 2000 Study." Occupational and Environmental Medicine 66 (2009): 523-528. Web.


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Togliatti, Tracy. "Keep Your Cool with This Stress Reduction Tool." HolisticJunction.com. Web. 8 March 2006. http://www.holisticjunction.com/displayarticle.cfm?ID=5860