There has been an increase over the years in the total number of cases of work-related stress, depression and anxiety, with 4440,000 cases being reported between 2014-2015 in the UK. One of the leading contributing factors causing the rise in mental health problems within the workplace are mind games.
Mind games are defined as deliberate attempts to psychologically manipulate someone. Specifically, the individual playing the mind game will use covert, coercive and manipulative techniques through the use of innocent communication. The language that is used by individuals playing mind games are designed in order to confuse the victim and keep them from guessing the perpetrator’s true aim. They are used most commonly within the workplace, families and friends and within relationships. The way in which these games are played are done in an attempt to completely entrench the victim to believe they are guilty and that their point of view is irrelevant or pathetic and the victim should realign their viewpoint with that of the perpetrator. One of the root reasons people play mind games is to gain, preserve or acquire control that they lack in their own lives due to experiencing some form of insecurity elsewhere. Therefore they use manipulation and impose their power over others in order to fill the void of feeling insecure within themselves in hope to regain a sense of control into their own lives.
Due to these psychological challenges in the workplace, victims often feel alone, bullied, fearful, low self-esteem/confidence and demotivation within the workplace. So what can be done in order to prevent this discreet form of bullying from occurring and to help protect those being targeted? The foremost way to tackle a person playing mind games is to rise above them and the situation. As tempting as it is to play the same mind game back, by doing this it can only heighten and worsen the situation. Therefore, it is essential for the victims to avoid the urge to come out on top. Instead, the recommended action would be to respond in a calm and composed manner without demonstrating any emotional inflection and suggest that you are not appreciative of the things that are being implied. By doing this, there are better chances that an apology will be elicited and followed by an immediate withdrawal, therefore leaving you as the disciplined and measured personality. The other (and more easier approach) is to dissociate yourself from the individual playing the mind games. Sometimes just walking away from the cause of the problem can itself resolve the issue.
Therefore to conclude, mind games are becoming an increasingly common form of bullying that goes unnoticed and actually causes devastating effects on individuals within the workplace as well as within other social relationships. It is important that people seek the right support at the right time and do not leave resolving the matter later than needed.
The writer is a practicing psychiatrist and academic in UK