In a perfect world, everyone would feel happy and comfortable within their workplace and actively enjoy doing their job – but unfortunately, this is not the case for a large number of workers. Emotional distress at work can have a significant impact on the affected individual – and if your boss or working environment needlessly causes such distress, this can make both your working hours and downtime highly unpleasant and have a significant impact on your emotional health.
In this article, I will explain what constitutes emotional distress at work and cover some of its common causes, as well as sharing some tips on handling emotional distress and advice on what to do if your workplace is causing you emotional distress.
What Is Emotional Distress At Work In San Diego?
Emotional distress may be caused to an employee if they are subjected to acute mental or physical harm (also known as workplace harassment). This may lead to a wide range of effects on the employee in question, including depression and anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, panic, and in extreme cases, severe mental distress that can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions.
Under federal law, two different types of work-related emotional distress are recognized, being intentionally inflicted emotional distress, and negligently inflicted emotional distress respectively.
Intentionally inflicted emotional distress is, as the term implies, deliberate, whilst negligently inflicted emotional distress occurs if your boss or employer fails to take reasonable steps to avoid causing emotional distress to their workforce or individual members of the workforce.
What Causes Emotional Distress At Work In San Diego?
Let us first begin with a brief explanation as to what stress is, in physiological terms. While often linked solely to negative outcomes, stress isn’t always a negative reaction. In fact, this bodily response is the body’s defense system to help an individual face a threat.
Stress should kick in when danger is sensed – whether real or simply perceived – with this automatic reaction releasing adrenaline and cortisol (a stress hormone) to assist the body in remaining alert, and providing additional strength to defend yourself. This process is also known as “flight or fight”; in medical terms, it is called the “stress response”.
However, problems arise when stress is experienced too frequently. The biological reaction of a pounding heart, tightening muscles, rising blood pressure and sharpened senses, can lead to:
- Mood swings
- Damaged health
- Ongoing anxiety
- Decreased productivity
- Relationship problems
- A lessened quality of life
- Emotional distress
Frequent stress can also exacerbate existing health problems, including:
- Depression and anxiety
- Pain of any kind
- Sleep problems
- Autoimmune diseases
- Digestive problems
- Skin conditions, such as eczema
- Heart disease
- Weight problems
- Reproductive issues
- Thinking and memory problems
Emotional Distress And Inherently Stressful Jobs
Many jobs are, by their very nature, potentially highly stressful or likely to lead to periods of distress or employee unhappiness. Examples of these include law enforcement officers, healthcare workers and others who work in highly pressurized and often difficult situations.
However, it’s important to note that your working environment and treatment by management or colleagues should not, in and of itself, lead to emotional distress.
Being bullied, victimized or attacked (emotionally or physically) in the workplace can cause emotional distress, as can a working environment that is negligently dangerous, frightening, or that otherwise places you at risk of physical or mental harm.
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What Are Common Examples Of Emotional Distress At Work In San Diego?
Emotional distress cases are commonly related to:
- Racial insults
- Sex discrimination
- False imprisonment
- Conduct that threatens physical security (a physical injury is not necessary to bring a case)
While the following examples will most likely NOT be considered as outrageous conflict…
- Termination of employment in and of itself
- Employer’s or co-worker’s annoying bad habits
- Employer’s or co-worker’s insulting language
- Employer or co-worker disrespecting you
- Employer or co-worker hurting your feelings
Tips For Handling Emotional Distress At Work
Everyone experiences stress at work from time to time, but a stressful job should not result in emotional distress. Managing your stress levels and safeguarding your mental health can help to ensure that workplace stress and the effects of your working environment don’t tip over into the realms of emotional distress.
Here are some tips for handling and reducing the impact of emotional distress at work:
- Remember that you cannot always control your wider environment or the behavior of other people within it – but you can control your own reactions to provocations and difficult situations. Concentrate on keeping yourself calm and avoiding negative reactions and thought patterns that can exacerbate distress, and try to develop tools and coping mechanisms to help you to manage your responses and emotions.
- Learn to recognize emotions and situations that upset you, and try to analyze your feelings and reactions to develop new thought patterns and coping behaviors that will help you to manage and minimize emotional distress.
- Try to disengage from work problems outside of your working hours – proactively separating your work life from your personal life and where possible, not taking work problems and baggage home with you.
- If you feel that your boss or workplace are causing or failing to prevent emotional distress, raise a formal grievance with the appropriate person within your chain of command, or with the company’s HR department. Ensure that your grievance is formally registered in case you need to refer back to it in the future.
What Are The Two Types Of Emotional Distress That Occur In San Diego?
Legally, an employer can be deemed to cause emotional distress either intentionally or by being negligent. There are two types of emotional distress that are described and recognized by both state and federal laws…
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED)
If your manager/supervisor or a colleague either intentionally or recklessly subjects you to either “extreme” or “outrageous” treatment, then you might be eligible to make a claim for IIED. However, proving IIED in court can be complex, as the terms “extreme” and “outrageous” are subjective.
In order to be successful, an IIED claim must demonstrate one of the following:
- Your employer/boss/coworker engaged in intentional or reckless behaviors
- Your employer/boss/coworker’s behavior was outrageous and extreme
- Your employer/boss/coworker’s behavior caused you mental distress
- Your mental distress was severe
Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED)
Where an employer fails to use reasonable care to avoid inflicting emotional distress, then there may be grounds to make a claim. In order to be successful, a NIED claim must demonstrate the following:
- Your employer engaged in negligent conduct, or willfully violated a statutory duty
- You (or a coworker) suffered from emotional distress from the incident
- Your employer’s negligent behavior was a cause of emotional distress
Others in the workplace who bear witness to such behaviors can also make a claim, even if they weren’t harmed themselves.
Getting Support For Emotional Distress At Work In San Diego
If you feel that your boss or employer is causing you emotional distress and you have attempted to raise the issue formally within the company – or if you feel unable to do so for fear of worsening the issue or falling victim to retaliation – contact Walker Law for professional advice from a specialist firm of employment law attorneys in San Diego.