Many managers have experienced the self-destruction of a valuable employee. The costs and the anguish can be devastating to the department and the organization. Self-immolation happens in the boardroom, the coffee room and on the shop floor. Everybody notices the slow demise, everyone feels helpless, and no one makes a move. Wafting through the air is a pervasive dread suffused with a real sense of hopelessness and an inability to do anything about the situation.
Depression is the silent killer of morale and inner health. It is infectious and transmittable, toxic and deadly. No one is immune; everyone is vulnerable. Once it finds a foothold and lodging, it is an unwelcome guest that stays on. It won’t leave, it won’t dissipate and it won’t do anything but contaminate anyone who comes within its orbit.
Many members of the workforce are depressed. It is normal for people to experience a certain amount of short-lived uneasiness about the hassles of the workday. Everybody has bad days, and people often say they are depressed when they are really just unhappy, down in the dumps or emotionally downcast. Clinical depression is a whole other matter. This is the cause of despondency, negative attitudes, intense unhappiness and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Clinical depression should be suspected when symptoms persist over weeks and interfere with work.
Depression is a mixed bag of “affective disorders” that includes “bipolar” depression (today’s favored term for manic-depression) and major but nonmanic (unipolar) depression. Depression also includes the persistent but not immobilizing condition known as dysthymia. Dysthymia is to the mood what the common cold is to the body. Unfortunately, all forms of depression are becoming alarmingly widespread.
Depression is seldom pinned down to a single cause. Frequently, it is produced by a combination of factors: a person’s biological predisposition, psychological tendency toward pessimism, feelings of low self-esteem and trauma, or long-term stress. Furthermore, many people feel the strain of being overworked and underpaid; others have squabbles and disagreements with co-workers or managers. Some people cannot stomach working in a situation where they have little or no control. It is normal for workers to become incensed and disheartened when they reach the “glass ceiling” and realize their career is quashed.
Management experts agree that continuing corporate layoffs will sap the psychological health of the nation’s workforce. Many companies offer employee assistance programs (EAPs) for the laid-off employees, but little is done for the survivors of the shakeout. These employees may suffer from “survivor’s syndrome.” The uneasiness of who is going next drains the energy, creativity and productivity out of the employees left behind. The self-destruction and self-immolation continue, surreptitiously left behind in the workplace like a pall covering the operation.