Let’s face it, most of us have, at some point or the other, had a boss from hell. That four letter word can mean a lot of things and not all positive. A male or a female boss, both can be equally painful.Sometimes the thought of the boss can cause one to hyperventilate. Added to that is the stress of keeping up with competition, not missing out on that promotion and dealing with office politics.
Stress at the workplace is everywhere; even if everything else is okay, sometimes the job itself is stressful – long working hours, a heavy workload, the long commute in public transport – you name it – it’s there. For young people today, getting a job may well be the road to unending stress.
On a more serious note, some of the very obvious reasons for stress at the workplace are the long working hours – often made compulsory rather than voluntary. A fear of being laid off if one doesn’t cooperate with the demands can also be a cause. Usually, and this is increasingly a cause for stress at work, is the performance pressure. But the pressure increases, while the salary or job satisfaction doesn’t. Competition implies one has to be on ones toes and give 200 % at all times. That is not always possible as one needs time to recharge before one can give back to the job.
But how do you know that the job is causing you stress? How do you know it is not your needy girlfriend or controlling boyfriend that is the cause? Or worse, parents forcing you into a marriage you are not ready for? There are signs that you can look for which will tell you that the job is the culprit if you look for these pointers:
* Your tummy is in knots all the time and you get irritated frequently. Or you are depressed for no reason and snap at people.
* You are bored at work and cringe at the thought of going to work. Worse, while you are there, you couldn’t care less if you finish the projects on hand well within deadline.
* You have trouble sleeping and lie awake in bed for hours. If you have a partner, you don’t even feel like having sex.
* You are tired all the time and find it hard to concentrate.
* You are either eating too much or too little. Constipation or diarrhoea are regular companions in the loo. This is one of the unhealthy ways of coping with stress.
* Your dependency on liquor or cigarettes has increased. Again a negative stress coping mechanism.
* Your skin and hair are dull and looking sharp and professional is not a priority.
* You don’t feel like partying and, if you do, your friends are bored listening to you whine about your boss.
* Looking for a new job is more and more tempting though you don’t have enough experience to get a better one.
So what is to be done in this situation? Several things actually. From a paradigm shift in one’s lifestyle to being more organized at work, one can reduce stress. If the stress is due to a bad boss, try taking the matter to HR if confronting the boss is a scary proposition. If the boss is the owner of the company or too powerful, make a choice. Learn to accept and deal with the situation or look for another job. On the other hand, if the boss is under as much stress as you are, then look at your workload and get organized.
* Strike a balance. If you are one of those perennially late starters or take a while to get settled in before you start for the day, or if you take up several tasks but leave them all incomplete, it is time to make a to-do list.
* The first thing to do when you come in to work is look at the tasks you have lined up. Prioritise them according to importance and urgency. Between what must be done and what should be done there is a fine line. Learn to distinguish between the necessary and unnecessary tasks.
* Make a to-do list. If you have a heavy workload waiting for you, prepare a list of things to do today. As you finish them, keep ticking them off. That way you know exactly how much you have accomplished and what is still pending. Also, the tasks you absolutely hate doing – finish them off first. Having them weighing on your mind all day will increase your stress.
* Don’t be the office donkey. People have a habit of dumping work on the hardworking ones in the team and these guys usually can’t say no. So if you have enough of your own work to do, don’t take on additional work from colleagues. If the boss gives you work, you can’t say no anyway.
* Delegate responsibilities. If you have a team working under you, assign tasks and you can take on a chunk of work yourself. The moment you let go of the need to control every aspect of every project, you will reduce stress levels for yourself. This also frees your mind to have clarity of thought in matters where more focus is needed.
* Get to work early if you have lots to do. The stress of coming in late and being told off by the boss is enough to add to the stress. So come early and start on work right away.
* If the amount of work or the size of a project seems overwhelming, it can drastically increase your stress levels. Break it up, if necessary, with a diagram into smaller to-do lists and then delegate. You will find it is not so overwhelming and once you have deadlines in place, you can work towards them.
* Strike a work-life balance. When you are home, try and tune out from work and avoid reaching for the BB every time you hear it ping. You don’t have to be on call 24 hours a day. If you are working all the time or are in work mode, when do you get to relax? When you are with your family or friends, live in the moment. Try and accidentally forget your phone at home if you are going out with friends. Keep some time for your hobbies and what you truly enjoy. Even an hour or two a week is enough to help you recharge and reduce stress.
Tips for Stress Management on a Personal Level
* Once you know that you are in a stressful job or that your job is causing stress, you have to be aware and look for the signs that will tell you whether the way you are coping with the stress is easy or not. As mentioned earlier, if you are smoking or drinking too much, bored or snappy, sleeping too much or too little, whining constantly or even drowning yourself in a game on the PS3 or the computer, it means you are not dealing with stress in a healthy manner. There are healthier ways to bust the stress and the key is to be self aware. If you know the reason for your stress, you can seek help. Stress levels, if left uncontrolled, can only rise and suppressing stress can lead to ailments like high blood pressure or diabetes. So the choice is yours. If you are mindful and aware, you can choose your reaction every time to minimise the stress.
* If you are more organized with work, you will find you are not running round the bend trying to meet deadlines. You should avoid colleagues who are forever whining or complaining. Their negative attitudes only remind you of your issues and increase stress. Instead, hang out with positive people who look at the bright side of life.
* Try to change the situation or your reaction. Sometimes your response to a situation can defuse the stress.
*Express how you feel. Communicate the issues bothering you in a lucid way to a senior or, if it is the owner of the company giving you stress, find a counselor or a good listener who can help you get it out of your system.
*See what you could be doing wrong that is adding to the stress and change yourself or your behaviour. It takes 21 days to make or break a habit so if you consistently do something that is reducing your stress levels, it is bound to show results.
*Assert yourself. If a colleague is overstepping his/her limits with you or running you down, be polite and firm and let the person know you don’t like it.
* Objectively analyse the situation and see whether it is really that important. You should ask yourself whether this situation or the person causing stress will, say, matter to you a day, a week, a month or a year later? If the answer is no, then apply it to your reaction to the person.
* Look at the bright side. If your job is all good except for one thing that is causing you immense stress, find ways to deal with that one thing rather than dismissing the job and all the good that comes with it.
* Change yourself. Change your reaction to the situation. Yoga or meditation helps one to stay calm and also reduce stress. Take up some form of exercise to expend all those stressful emotions you have bottled up. Find something to do that will take your mind away from your work. What you focus on grows, so focus on something that gives you happiness.
* Eat healthy. You don’t want to fall sick to add to all your problems.
Most problems can be solved – all you need is the will to face a situation. And if it is really hopeless, then we suggest you find another job and don’t let the stress get to you.