Articles & Blogs

How to Deal With Workplace Nightmares

31 October 2019
The Hindu Business Lines

First, accept the fact that workplaces will always be uncertain. See them as a maze and you will start accepting the twists and turns, the highs and lows irrespective of how painful they are

Your dreams can turn into nightmares when you feel threatened, afraid, insecure, unappreciated, or discredited. A study conducted in the US last year found that two-thirds of Americans suffer from what is called ‘workplace nightmare’. The situation is not much different in India, an Assocham study says that over 40 per cent people face workplace anxiety or depression. Workplace nightmares are triggered by job-related stress or insecurities.

The core of any nightmare is fear in the subconscious mind, which gets expanded when you are rested and relaxed. Some psychologists have compared workplace nightmares with mini Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to Kelly Bulkeley, a noted US-based psychologist who has done extensive research on dreams and also authored books on the subject, “Nightmares are triggered by feelings of helplessness and vulnerability, things that make us feel infantilised or reduced to child status.”

Though the problem is widespread, not many people know that these nightmares can affect their mental health. And that’s why it is important to address it.

Uncertain and unfair

I believe that to do so you first need to accept that workplaces will always be uncertain and will continue to be unfair. One needs to tell oneself that workplaces are like a maze, and mazes don’t have straight roads. And therefore, every time you feel lost at the workplace, you need to remind yourself that it is the nature of the maze.

Once you start seeing the workplace as a maze and not a straight climb you will start accepting the twists and turns, the highs and lows irrespective of how painful they are. For me accepting the uncertainty is the first step in winning over my nightmares.

Imagining the worst

Secondly, the workplace nightmares also occur when you keep imagining what could happen to you: It has not happened yet but you do imagine the worst — whether you will get a promotion or salary hike you want; whether you will get a posting of your choice... Since nightmares are born out of fear — the fear of remaining stuck in a position you don’t want to be in or you hate to be in — the nightmare only gets accentuated if the fear persists.

I believe it is futile to say don’t be afraid or don’t imagine the future because very few of us have such control over our minds. To deal with such nightmares, imagine if a mountaineer gets stuck halfway to a cliff which is 1,000 meters high and at that time he can neither go up, nor come down. What should he do? He needs to find a secure place to spend the night and wait for bright sunshine in the morning to show him the way.

You need to remember that time solves a lot of things. A beach looks beautiful at sunrise and sunset but looks scary at night. If you are stuck at seashore at midnight and it is pitch dark and scary, all you need to remember is that the sun rises every 24 hours. Just keep telling yourself that the sun is about to rise. Having faith that the sun will rise will help you overcome your nightmare. Thus, the mantra I practise is “give it a night” and it works a lot of time!


Finally, if you are in a situation where you anticipate the things will not go your way, I suggest you think three steps ahead before taking any decision. Think what you would like to do and its possible consequences, and then think about how you will act in that situation. What your next step would be and its possible consequences and then what you would do. This is how you need to prepare yourself for three subsequent situations arising out of your actions. If even after answering the three questions, you still find yourself nowhere, you need to exit the situation because if you stay, the nightmares will only get worse.

India is a young country with aspirations and mental health of our youth driving the $5 trillion economy dream. However, we need to help our young to deal with workplace nightmares so that we do not become a depressed nation and lose the dream. Workplace nightmares are a reality, but we can learn to get control over them so that life is like a good Bollywood movie, singing songs around the trees even if the villain is hiding in the bushes, because it is about this moment and not the next!

The writer is former CEO, HCL Technologies, and Founder Chairman, Sampark Foundation.

External Link: How to deal with workplace nightmares