Blogs3 Common Stressful Work Situations—and How to Fix Them
Not sure what to do about that passive-aggressive e-mail from your boss, or the rumors spreading about upcoming layoffs? Use these expert strategies to address these high-anxiety situations at the office.
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Does the mere thought of heading into work on Monday morning make you feel anxious? You’re not alone. According to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, money, work, and the economy continue to be the most frequently cited causes of stress for Americans. The researchers found that for 70% of the participants, work was the primary cause of their stress.
Since most of us aren’t in a position to ditch our day jobs and unwind on the nearest tropical island, the best course of action is to go in and address the stress head-on. To ensure you’re doing that in a productive, promotion-friendly way (no flipping your boss the bird behind his back), we spoke with David Posen, M.D., author of Is Work Killing You?, who offered up some smart solutions to three of the most common workplace beefs.
The situation: You’re about to blow an important deadline
The solution: This may sound simple, but few of us adhere to it: Don’t accept a deadline you think is completely unrealistic. “If you feel that you’re being set up to fail by being given an impossible-to-meet objective, speak up,” says Posen. “Most bosses would rather know up front—or at least, a few days before a project is due—that you’re going to need more time than to be surprised when you don’t come through as promised.”
The situation: There’s a rumor circulating about impending layoffs
The solution: The key word here is rumor. “Don’t get caught up in worrying that the worst is coming until you know for certain that you have something to be worried about,” Dr. Posen urges. When trying to assess if there’s any truth to the buzz, start by considering the source: Is the person who shared this information reliable? If not, try to seek out information from someone you trust higher up in your organization.
If you truly feel that there’s something to be concerned about, give yourself a backup plan, Dr. Posen suggests. “Make sure you have an up-to-date résumé handy at all times,” he says. “Keep up with your friends and colleagues in the industry, and attend events so that you’re always networking.” That way, if you do get the pink slip, you’ll have plenty of leads in the pursuit of your next great gig.
The situation: You get a passive-aggressive e-mail from your boss or co-worker
The solution: Devise a response based on the specifics in the e-mail—and not the tone of the note. “Most of the stress that we have over e-mail comes not from the content of the message, but the way we think it was phrased—and what it really means,” Dr. Posen says. “More often than not, the sender didn’t have bad intentions, but it’s tough to tell when you’re simply reading a screen.”
If your truly feel the sender had negative intentions, the last thing you should do is send them an angry e-mail back (especially if other co-workers or higher-ups are copied). “Before you can type something you’ll regret, take things offline,” Posen recommends. “Pick up the phone or go talk to the person in person to avoid overanalyzing and further confusion.” You’d be surprised at how quickly you can find common ground when you’re sitting face-to-face.