Bring Home the Bacon, Just Make Sure It Isn't Burnt: Stress in the Workplace
Work, work, work! We all have to work, whether at home or in the workplace. Work can give us a sense of accomplishment and purpose. Whether we work for someone or are self-employed, we all have, at some time or another, experienced stress. Either we create the stress due to our need to achieve a certain status like get a promotion or get recognition, or we are being asked to perform tasks that take up a lot of time and energy. At these times we may become stressed and overwhelmed. In my private practice, I often work with individuals who are highly stressed due to situations in the workplace. Our goal is to identify triggers, how to change our mindset about the issues we may be facing at work, as well finding alternative ways to confront and deal with stress. Here are some triggers that can lead to workplace stress and some ways to approach your stressors. These triggers can take place in your own business, a small office, or large organizations and companies. The important thing to remember is that you can attempt to take some control over some of these situations if you better prepare and take care of yourself.
Poor workplace climate and culture: No one wants to go to work when the workplace moral feels heavy and negative. This might be caused by employees who no longer enjoy their work or are over-stressed. If you happen to work for a company that uses fear as a means to “supervise,” you more than likely will develop stress.
What to do: Always ask yourself if you are enjoying your work. Is it your vocation? Can you stay away from individuals who are negative about their job? And if you can’t, how can you focus on what needs to be accomplished? Do you have fellow employees that you can connect with? Make time away from work to spend by yourself or with people outside the work place.
Poor supervision or management: It is important that we have support, direction and guidance in the workplace so that we can become proficient and effective. When we have an ineffective leader who is either never around, or always unavailable, then gets upset when they don’t like the way a task is completed, it can take a toll on their employees. Do not be afraid to ask questions when unsure about any specific task or responsibility you have been assigned. Remember, you were hired to do your job because someone obviously felt you were a good fit for the position. And asking questions is one of the ways we can get a better handle on what’s expected of us. Now on the flip side you may have the micro-manager that watches, questions and wants to change everything you have worked on. A lax and weak supervisor makes you feel lost, while a micro-manager leaves you feeling as if you are undervalued. Working under these conditions can definitely lead to work place stress.
What to do: We are responsible for our growth. So therefore if you need and or want to meet with your supervisor, set up a formal appointment. Remember they, too have a lot on their plate and all it may take is for you to set up some time to meet with them. If you have issues related to your position, it’s best to come in not only with your concerns but also have potential solutions to your problems. Your supervisor will respect you for being pro-active and not just a complainer. As for the micro-manager, this can be a bit tricky. Micro-managers can make us feel as if we can never do anything right. It is best to understand that oftentimes the supervisor’s need to micro-manage has a lot to do with their need to have a pulse on everything. They may also be under a lot of stress themselves and want to do well in their position. And remember this may not be a reflection on your work. Here is where you have to detach from your perceived notion that you do not know how to do your job. If a micro-manager’s energy becomes to much, learn to take time to breathe and detach yourself, even if it’s for a couple minutes. If it continues to be an issue and you cannot get a sense of relief, it might also help to meet with your supervisor to ask how they think you are doing. You might be surprised and find out that you are doing quite well in your role.
Working you to the bone: We all have those days, or even weeks when we have a lot to accomplish and feel like we can never come up to for air. We feel overwhelmed and it seems as if we will never catch up and so we experience a huge amount of stress. Deadlines and a high workload can
definitely take its toll on employees.
What to do: It might help to plan and prioritize what needs to be done immediately and what can wait. Working more hours does not necessarily mean that you are being more efficient. There will be times that we have to work extra hours, but there is no need to make this an everyday occurrence. Make sure you take your breaks and lunch. This is your time to nourish both body and soul. So take a walk, breathe, eat lunch away from your desk and decompress. More than likely you will feel a bit more energized so that you can go back to the grind.
Bullying or harassment: Workplace bullying and harassment are very real. It can impact both the mind and body. No one wants to be the brunt of someone’s wrath. Often times employees feel alone, depressed and are unsure about where they stand as far as their employment.
What to do: Companies or organizations usually have a protocol in which to follow when someone is being bullied or harassed at work. Attempt to directly talk to the individual(s) who are bullying you. If you feel uncomfortable doing this by yourself have someone accompany you. Also make sure to document what you and the other party said. If you are unsatisfied with the outcome, then go to your supervisor. If you are still unsatisfied or your supervisor is the one bullying and or harassing you, then go to your human resources department or union. They will assist in you getting the support you need.
Will I have a job? Though nothing is permanent and there are never any guarantees in the workplace you shouldn’t spend time wondering whether you have a job or are going to get paid. Having this kind of stress doesn’t allow us to enjoy or at least be at peace in the workplace.
What to do: There is nothing wrong with looking at what job opportunities are available out there. You should also try to learn new skills or improve the ones you already have by going to workshops or taking online class. You may have to take a look at your current job status either because your company or position may fold or because you are not being valued as an employee and are simply not happy about your job. It is always better to be prepared in the event you have to begin job hunting.
Of course you cannot control everything at work, but you don’t have to go around feeling miserable, irritable and stressed. You have a lot more power than you may think and if handled professionally, stressful situations can oftentimes change. So take a deep breath, slow down, think, plan, and then act. After all, for many of us, we may spend a good part of our lives working, so we may as well learn how to take care of ourselves at the workplace so that when we leave work, we can enjoy our time with friends and family.