AS@W Antidepressant Skills at Work: Dealing with Mood Problems in the Workplace

Putting antidepressant skills to work: an example

Sanjay became angry over small problems.


SituationSanjay sold high-end clothing in a trendy downtown store. He enjoyed his job and maintained good sales over the years. However, he’d always had a problem with his temper. He would become impatient when orders took too long to arrive and would find himself yelling on the phone at the warehouse people. When co-workers didn’t handle something the way he’d expected, he would snap at them. His co-workers were intimidated by him and resentful of his aggressive manner.

Sanjay had previously moved from job to job , staying at each position only for a few years, but his current job was one he really liked and wanted to keep. However, he still became angry over small events. In fact, the longer he stayed in his job , the more bothered he felt by certain inefficiencies in how the store was run. He had more conflict with co-workers, and on several occasions became short with customers. His co-workers started to avoid him. Once his supervisor saw him being impatient with a customer and warned him that this was not acceptable.

He was feeling pretty uncomfortable at work – isolated because co-workers wanted nothing to do with him and worried that his temper would cost him a job he really liked. He felt quite sad, at work and at home, and wondered if he would have to give up his job. He began to drink more, and refused invitations from his friends to go out to movies or clubs. These actions just made his situation worse and he became sadder and began to feel less energy and motivation for doing things. This worried him quite a bit, because he was normally an upbeat and energetic person.

ActionOne day, Sanjay’s supervisor took him aside and expressed concern about his recent performance – she told him that he was an excellent salesperson and he should be doing well, but he was not projecting his usual enthusiasm to customers. She asked whether there was any way she could help. He admitted that he had not been feeling his usual self lately and thought that he might need to talk to someone. His supervisor, knowing that he was an asset to the company, suggested he visit the Employee and Family Assistance Program on contract to this clothing chain. Sanjay had 8 sessions with an EFAP counselor, who recognized that he had a problem with depressed mood that might become more serious if his pattern of work behaviour didn’t change.

The counselor helped him to see how being so aggressive with his colleagues left him feeling isolated, and how this isolation triggered depressed mood. She coached him in using antidepressant skills to make changes in his work behaviour.

One of Sanjay’s Action Worksheets looked like this:

Action Worksheet (example)

The Problem:

Orders take too long to come from the warehouse.

  Action Advantages Disadvantages
1 Phone the warehouse and really let them have it. (Aggressive) It lets the warehouse staff know that they’re causing problems for others.
It lets off some steam for me.
They’ll take even longer for my next order.
I don’t usually feel b etter after telling someone off, I just feel more angry.
2 Don’t say anything, just live with it. (Passive) It saves the aggravation of telling the warehouse staff off.
The warehouse staff won’t be angry at me.
These delays in getting orders are causing problems with customers.
3 Bring up this problem at the next sales team meeting. (Assertive) If others back me up, my concerns will have more impact.
I won’t get singled out as the troublemaker.
The manager is in the best position to make the warehouse work more efficiently.
I have to get over the feeling that it’s my right to tell them off.

Result Sanjay began to notice when he would act aggressively, and gradually learned to replace aggressive actions with assertive ones. For example, if a co-worker did something he didn’t like, he took a few minutes to calm down (with deep breathing, counting backwards from 10 to 1) then found an appropriate time to raise the issue with his colleague. As Sanjay replaced Aggressive actions with Assertive ones, he felt less angry, his co-workers b egan to like him better and he felt more supported at work. His mood gradually improved.

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