Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Workplace Depression

An executive guide to workplace depression
Joseph Kline Jr, Lyle Sussman. The Academy of Management Executive. Briarcliff Manor: Aug 2000. Vol. 14, Iss. 3;

What is Major Depression?

Major depression is a serious and frequently chronic mood disorder characterized by one or more major depressive episodes in the absence of mania or hypomania. The disorder is better known to the general public by the term clinical depression.

Diagnosis of depression

The diagnosis of major depression requires the presence of five signs and symptoms, including either a depressed mood or markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all or most activities. Additional signs and symptoms must be present from a list that includes marked psychomotor retardation or agitation (slowed or agitated movements, for example); significant appetite or weight change; significant changes in sleep; fatigue or loss of energy; problems thinking, concentrating, or deciding; feelings of worthlessness; excessive or inappropriate guilt; and thoughts of death or suicide. Finally, the signs and symptoms must be present for at least two consecutive weeks. Because it takes time for depressed individuals to actually recognize that they are depressed and need help, it is extremely rare for a patient to be evaluated before this twoweek period has elapsed.

Difficulty in concentrating may be one of the most prominent symptoms in affected workers. A depressed employee may be unable to think clearly, process information well, or contribute effectively in groups. Turner extends the list of job-related signs of depression to include decreased productivity, morale problems, lack of cooperation, safety problems, accidents, absenteeism, complaints of constant fatigue, complaints of unexplained aches and pains, and alcohol and drug abuse.

How common is major depression? According to the National Comorbidity Survey, a landmark epidemiological study of 8,098 15- to 54-year-olds, major depression is the second most common mental illness in the United States, after alcoholism. Almost 13 percent of men and 21 percent of women will experience at least one episode of major depression during their lifetimes.

The likelihood of an individual's having a major depressive episode in any 12-month period-known as the 12-month prevalence-is about eight percent for men and 13 percent for women.


Joseph Kline, Jr., is a board-certified psychiatrist at NorthKey Community Care in Covington, KY. He received his Ph.D. in physiology and biophysics, and M.D., and an M.B.A. with distinction, all from the University of Louisville. He practices community psychiatry and conducts research on mental illness in the workplace, difficult employees, burnout, and the application of the theory of constraints to health-care organizations. Contact:

Lyle Sussman is a professor of management at the University of Louisville. His research on communication, employee coaching and counseling, and executive development has appeared in leading academic and practitioner journals. He has conducted seminars in Canada, Mexico, Europe, and the Far East. His applied management books, Smart Moves and Smart Moves for People in Charge, have been translated into 13 languages. Contact:

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