Workplace stress and what you can do about it

Stress is the number one killer of energy and happiness and I believe it is the number one reason why people carry a few extra pounds. Personally, I devote too much energy towards workplace stress, and I let it get to me far too much. I have a jerk-off for a boss, a bunch of clueless co-workers, and an angry group of customers I deal with each and every day. I am basically in workplace hell. Does this sound familiar to you?

First and foremost stress deserves attention. Stress is a survival technique and so exists for a purpose. In our day and age workplace stress is usually a big factor in our overall happiness. Our jobs are too important to us and because of this importance we safe guard it. Stress is a sign that what we hold dear is under attack. Whether we are overreacting or not is a different story.

Workplace stress will always be there and the severity of which is not always in your control. A new issue pops up and your boss turns into a lunatic and by translation turns you into one as well. Your first step is to have a pre-built response technique that will allow you to weather the first bouts of the storm. You need to have some mechanism to remain calm. What is your knee jerk reaction to an issue? I suggest the following steps:

1) Go into listen mode. When emotions run high the best thing to do is bite your tongue. No smart decisions are ever made while in an emotional state. By showing that you are listening the stressed people around you may calm down.

2) Think surrender versus offense. Immediately going on the offense is akin to going nuclear. You cannot pull back the missiles once you have launched them. It is always better to quietly weather the storm even if you know you are in the right. Keep in mind there are always two sides to every issue. By going into surrender mode you are taking steps to diffuse the issue versus ignite it.

3) Make sure you understand the issue. More often than not stress is caused by some form of miscommunication. Say to yourself “Perhaps he/she just doesn’t understand…” Take the time to understand as much as you can. Ask questions that are simple to answer and try not to let the barbed questions get out.

4) Don’t try to immediately solve the problem. Chances are the issue is much more complex and not likely to be solved with a snap of the finger. By oversimplifying the issue the stress may be reflected backwards onto your co-workers and will eventually come back to bite you.

Once you survive the initial bout of stress you need to fall back on the basics to survive the ensuing chaos.

  • Ask yourself if your are overreacting. Often times things like e-mails can be misinterpreted. Is this even an issue?
  • Tell yourself you have this job for a reason. You are good at it and uniquely qualified for it. Remind yourself of the value you bring to the company. Your primary responsibility is always to make sure your boss AND your peers understand the value that you bring to the organization.
  • Stress is a part of every job. You should expect it. Stress can also be cyclical and certain parts of the year more stressful than others. Life isn’t always roses and therefore you need to devote some of your energy to handling stress. Being unprepared is not an excuse.
  • Finally, we all make mistakes. Yes, you could be flat out dead wrong. It happens. Trying to understand all of the ramifications of this will make you even more stressed. Begin to talk about solutions quickly versus dwelling on the past. Let it go.

Recognize that there will always be some form of workplace stress and to improve the quality of your life you should expend some energy on preparing for it. If you cannot get past the stress despite all of your efforts then chances are something much bigger is at play. Perhaps your attitude and your employer simply don’t jive? Life is too short and may be time to move on. Change can be good.


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