When Company Culture Impacts Mental Health
This week I’m talking to Soma Ghosh, Career Happiness Mentor, on when company culture impacts mental health.
So give us an overview of your experience in different company cultures.
So, I as a careers advisor, have worked in lots of different organisations. When I first started as a careers advisor – just to give a little bit of context, I worked for the local council. This local council – obviously I won’t be divulging any names of any of the places I’ve worked in just for confidentiality reasons.
Is there an experience that really stands out to you from any of those experiences? Positively and negatively, is there a particular experience?
So positively, when I worked under the council, I would say that was a really positive experience because I felt so supported. I had a manager who mentored me. She was absolutely amazing.
When I worked in that corporate company, as structured as they were, and as on target as they were, you felt supported. You didn’t feel like you weren’t supported, but unfortunately negatively when I was going through quite a lot and I was being bullied and I was not being treated as nicely, I was going through a little bit of anxiety and depression. I did tell my manager at the time, and she did support in that moment, but I think, to be honest with you, the problem was I think she didn’t realise it would be an ongoing issue. She just thought, “Oh, it’s just a little bit of stress. Soma will recover. We’ll help a little bit on that,” and then that’s it.
I think the reason why that experience stands out for me is I feel as though a lot of managers don’t know how to handle situations like that. When potentially someone’s not treating you well at work, they kind of brush it off and they kind of think, “Oh, it’s just someone difficult that you’re working with.” To be honest with you, in my previous roles, Lizzie, I’d worked with two other difficult people. One person, she was so difficult, she was so hard on me, but she kind of did it like a taskmaster. It was more like micromanaging me.
The other person, she was just really, really stressed and she was putting that stress on me. When she realised that, she actually later offered me another job. I do think that you can gain respect from people, but with this woman I just knew everything I was doing just wasn’t good enough. She would constantly hound me and I think you know when someone’s not being nice to you. You know when you’re not liked by somebody. So I feel that the company culture, unfortunately because there wasn’t the support there, that did impact on that.
"If you're in a poor mental state, how can you even be proactive in going to HR?"
I know HR are often criticised as being reactive in regards to mental health rather than proactive. I suppose there’s a lot of that within society as well. Unfortunately we are always very reactive in our culture rather than being proactive about how we can obviously think about things before they escalate into a much bigger problem.
What was your experience with that? Do you think that in regards to the HR support that you had, do you think that helped you or do you think that was a bit of a hindrance?
It’s very interesting. One of the organisations I worked for actually, in a way once a week we would know where the main HR manager was. We had access to him, but I never had any issues in that job. So even though we could go and talk to him and he was there, that’s great but I do feel like a lot of the time when you work for big organisations like I have, the Head Offices are not in London . I’m based in London and you have to be proactive in order to contact them.
What ends up happening is when you start a new job, yes you’ve got the support with the induction with your line manager or with whoever, but maybe it would be helpful if HR would be a bit more proactive and say, “How are you getting on?” and have that outsider perspective, Lizzie. I honestly feel that sometimes even though managers have good intentions and they’re amazing, if you have a little bit of outside support you’re more willing to open up and say, “Oh, actually this person’s being really horrible to me at work,” or “actually I feel like I’m being left out.”
My overall experience is that I’ve not really had much contact with HR apart from that particular individual because I had access to him. I think sometimes, Lizzie, what it is, is if you’re in a bad mental state, how can you be proactive enough to even contact them? Do you know what I mean?