Actively manage psychosocial disorders

N°202b – Synopsis (8p.) – Health and Safety
Actively manage psychosocial disorders
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Violence, harassment, excessive stress... How can managers identify what really comes under the company's responsibility? And how can they cope effectively with psychosocial disorders?

Psychosocial disorders have a very negative impact on performance in the workplace. The much-publicized spate of suicides at France Telecom and Renault is just the tip of the iceberg. Certainly, employers must comply with increasingly strict legislation obliging them to ensure that the work environment does not endanger the psychological and physical well-being of employees. Still, managers struggle every day to cope with absenteeism and manage sensitive human situations such as harassment, alcoholism, violence and malaise in the workplace.

Indeed, deciding precisely what should be done to prevent and react to these situations is extremely complex. First of all, psychosocial disorders are particularly difficult to identify. For example, at what point does stress—tolerable and stimulating up to a certain threshold—turn into negative pressure that can demoralize, depress or burn out employees? Whom to believe? The manager who reprimands a chronically underperforming employee or the employee who feels bullied or harassed by the boss? How can we distinguish between normal interpersonal tension and disagreement in the workplace and a situation that gradually drifts into harassment?

What makes things more complicated is the fact that psychosocial disorders are manifested in different ways from one person to the next. Some people react by becoming withdrawn at work or developing depressive symptoms or musculoskeletal disorders. Others find solace in various forms of addiction, such as alcohol, or react by bullying or harassing their co-workers, thus becoming both the victim and the tormentor.

In this context, managers and executives understandably often find themselves at a loss to cope with these phenomena. Where does the responsibility of company representatives begin and end? How should managers react when faced directly with such issues?

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