Lawyers and the ripple effect of poor work environments
It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver
- Mahatma Ghandi
A recent study by Dr Rebecca Michalak of PsychSafe, has shown that the legal profession has the lowest levels of health and well being of white collar workers, and that they are also the highest users of drugs, alcohol and tobacco. In fact substance abuse is approximately double that of other white collar workers. You can read a summary of her report here.
It is no secret that the very nature of the legal profession is inherently stressful — long working hours, the tyranny of time sheets and budgets, demanding clients, competition, and a pessimistic view of the world as a result of always having to look for the worst case scenario and plan for it, all contribute to stress, which over a long period of time cam lead to many health problems. These health problems include many physical illnesses and also mental illnesses.
Sadly, substance abuse can be a by-product of mental health issues as those suffering from it attempt to self medicate, rather than admit to it.
Dr Michalak said that rather than teaching resilience, to cope with stress, law firms needed to take proactive, preventative measures around the systemic failings and work environments to prevent it happening at all.
I agree with Dr Michalak - at present the legal profession has almost double the rate of mental health diagnoses as the general population. This is a systemic issue not a personal one.
Disturbingly, her report also found that:
Lawyers were also more likely than other professionals to be exposed to toxic behaviour in the workplace, including verbal abuse, mistreatment, bullying, competition, and destabilisation from colleagues, as well as sexual harassment
The ripple effect of poor work practices and environments is large, and getting bigger.