How Your Colleagues Breathing Might Be Killing You Softly

Regardless of whether you love or hate your job, there are bound to be things about it that you don’t find enjoyable. I’m talking about those everyday, little frustrations like the meeting that should have been an email, the unpleasant commute to and from work, and someone stealing your lunch out of the fridge (Deborah from accounts, I’m looking at you!). But those small aggravations, day after day, can be disastrous for your health.

Dealing with such things at work is just part of being a grown up and negotiating your interactions with other grown ups as we all go about the grown up business that is life. These everyday things can be stressful, but they are manageable. You find an excuse not to attend the meeting, you learn to let it go when someone cuts you off in traffic, you label your lunch containers with permanent marker.

 

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What may be more difficult to manage, is some of the things that your colleagues inadvertently do which could be having a serious affect on your health. We’re all different, and understanding how we naturally respond to circumstances can be a significant help in the way we relate to and work with the people around us. Thankfully, we’re seeing technologies like Shae arise that can help each and every one of understand how unique we are and how other people may effect us.

You spend a lot of time with the people you work with – a third of your day if you work full time. Sometimes, the things that they do or say can have a detrimental effect on your wellbeing and may be slowly killing you. 4 such things are:

  • Not valuing your input. Life satisfaction is based on self-acceptance and feeling accepted for who you naturally are1, 2. The more you feel like you belong, like you are useful and appreciated, and that you are liked for the natural you, the more you feel good about yourself, increase your sense of self-esteem and self-worth, feel happy, and increase your sense of satisfaction in life. The opposite happens, when you feel rejected. If people don’t like you for who you are and make you feel judged, segregated, and isolated, your sense of happiness drops and you can feel quite depressed. Depression, neuroticism, anxiety and anger can all stem from rejection and all of these can have major influences on health, including cardiovascular problems, diabetes and cancer.
  • Not giving you space. Introverts can really feel stressed if they are constantly bombarded with exposure to large groups of people, lots of noises, or just people constantly passing by their work space3-6. An introvert uses their own energy, company and thoughts to stay stimulated and having a quiet space alone allows them to tap into that internal stimulation and be really productive. Now imagine adding the lots of other input (like people) you can’t control to that already stimulated mind with no break. It could be overwhelming right? Not really conducive to getting stuff done? Add that to the fact that introverts often have high levels of dopamine and get their feel good hormones from ticking things off a list and, well, you have a recipe for a health disaster.
  • Giving you too much space. The opposite goes for extroverts. They work really well in teams and in a buzzing, busy environment7-11. An extrovert predominantly relies on external energies and stimulus to keep going. Putting an extrovert into an isolated office or away from the action all the time can be like torture for them. With no external stimulation, no genius ideas are generated, no connecting conversations spark the brain’s kick of happiness12-14. Essentially keeping an extrovert away from other people all the time is draining the life from them. And with the lack of social sustenance comes conditions like depression, weight gain and related diseases.
  • Not recognising your individuality. The type C personality is very detail-oriented and somewhat of a perfectionist but also very high in agreeableness. Combine this with really pushy and demanding Type A personalities in a working environment and they can feel bulldozed and internalize their stress. Should they not have good stress management and coping mechanisms, then they are prone to cancer. In fact, the type C personality is called the Cancer type15-19.

You can rest assured that the people you work with are not plotting your demise. In fact it’s unlikely that they are even actively trying to make your life difficult. But, unfortunately, some of the things they inadvertently do, and the environment this creates, could be seriously harmful for you.

 

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If you recognise yourself in any of the above examples, it may be time to take a step back and consider what your your workplace is really doing to you.

We are all different and we work in different ways. It’s OK if you don’t have the same kind of attitude, energy, thinking, or approach to work as your colleagues. In fact it’s a good thing. The fact that we all work differently means that our strengths and skills are complementary and can be used to create extraordinary collaborative efforts.

Knowing how you work best empowers you to achieve your full potential. Introducing that into your work life may be the catalyst to give you the satisfying career you always dreamed of. We are all grown ups after all, so if your work environment isn’t working for you, it may be time to speak up. Your colleagues are grown ups too, and if you explain to them how you work differently to them, they will probably feel awful that they made you feel awful. You’ll deal with it like adults, hug it out and everything will be much more productive and relaxed at work. The key is to understand how you work best in the first place and Shae can help you do that from the palm of your hand – be introduced to Shae here!

After all, it’s not like they’re actually trying to murder you (probably).

 

References

  1. Siahpush, Mohammad, Matt Spittal, and Gopal K. Singh. “Happiness and life satisfaction prospectively predict self-rated health, physical health, and the presence of limiting, long-term health conditions.” American Journal of Health Promotion 23.1 (2008): 18-26.
  2. Ryff, Carol D., and Burton H. Singer. “Know thyself and become what you are: A eudaimonic approach to psychological well-being.” Journal of happiness studies 9.1 (2008): 13-39.
  3. Evans, David E., and Mary K. Rothbart. “Temperamental sensitivity: Two constructs or one?.” Personality and Individual Differences 44.1 (2008): 108-118.
  4. Cain, Susan. Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. Broadway Books, 2013.
  5. Zelenski, John M., Karin Sobocko, and Deanna C. Whelan. “Introversion, solitude, and subjective well-being.” The handbook of solitude: Psychological perspectives on social isolation, social withdrawal, and being alone (2014): 184-201.
  6. Hartmann, Francis, and Gérard Cucchi. “Pathophysiological Conditions.” Stress and Orality. Springer Paris, 2014. 121-150.
  7. Walsh, John. “Designing Work: A study of Collaboration and Concentration in Open-Plan Offices.” (2015).
  8. Gorla, Narasimhaiah, and Yan Wah Lam. “Who should work with whom?: building effective software project teams.” Communications of the ACM 47.6 (2004): 79-82.
  9. Cacioppo, John T., and William Patrick. Loneliness: Human nature and the need for social connection. WW Norton & Company, 2008.
  10. Zurlo, Roberta, and Giuseppe Riva. “Online group creativity: The link between the active production of ideas and personality traits.” Journal of CyberTherapy and Rehabilitation 2.1 (2009): 67-76.
  11. Von Gehlen, Johannes, and Pierre Sachse. “Benefits of distraction.” Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal 43.4 (2015): 601-612.
  12. Lucas, Richard E., et al. “Cross-cultural evidence for the fundamental features of extraversion.” Journal of personality and social psychology 79.3 (2000): 452.
  13. T. Canli, et al., Amygdala response to happy faces as a function ofextraversion, Science 296 (5576) (2002) 2191.
  14. R.A. Depue, P.F. Collins, Neurobiology of the structure of personality:dopamine, facilitation of incentive motivation, and extraversion,Behav. Brain Sci. 22 (3) (1999) 491–517 (discussion 518-69)
  15. Matthews, Gerald, et al. “Personality variable differences between disease clusters.” European journal of personality 17.2 (2003): 157-177.
  16. Yousfi, S., et al. “Personality and disease: Correlations of multiple trait scores with various illnesses.” Journal of Health Psychology 9.5 (2004): 627-647.
  17. Segerstrom, Suzanne C., and Timothy W. Smith. “Physiological pathways from personality to health: The cardiovascular and immune systems.” Handbook of personality and health (2006): 175-194.
  18. Kreitler, S., et al. “Psychological risk factors for colorectal cancer?.” Psycho-oncologie 2.3 (2008): 131-145.
  19. Eysenck, Hans J. “Cancer, personality and stress: Prediction and prevention.” Advances in Behaviour Research and Therapy 16.3 (1994): 167-215.

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