Many of us have entered the new year feeling overwhelmed and stressed by the seemingly impossible demands on us. In an effort to restore a sense of balance, I asked readers to tell me what workplace situations cause them the most stress. Then I took some of those questions to business/life coaches. Here, they weigh in with ways to cope.
Q: Dealing with my supervisor has become stressful. I feel like he is overwhelmed and it flows down to me in the workload and erratic mixed messages he sends me. He is constantly revising goals, plans and assignments. How do I manage the situation to keep my sanity and stress level in check?
A: "He may not realize just how much stress his behavior is causing you," said Pat Morgan, a Miami executive/life coach with Smooth Sailing Success. "Some people thrive on chaos and expect others to do the same." Go to your supervisor and let him know that you want to be supportive of the team goals, but you need help to effectively prioritize your workload as goals/plans are changing. Request a daily huddle, or check-in, to make sure everyone is aligned on priorities for the day.
Q: Cuts at my company have meant I'm working longer hours for less pay and missing out on family time. My spouse is angry that, even when I'm home, I'm on the computer dealing with work stuff or thinking about work. What should I do to ease the tension?
A: Looks like you are operating out of fear, said Dr. Gabriela Cora, a leadership consultant and author of Executive Health.com's Leading Under Pressure. Work with a supervisor and ask about priorities. Knowing your priorities should ease the burden of feeling you need to do it all at once. If you took over two other people's jobs, it's not realistic to think you can do three jobs at the same time. Something needs to come off your plate. It's important that you put an end to work each day, give yourself a chance to refresh and not carry the stress into your evening. Cut off work two hours before you go to bed and spend quality time with your spouse. Anything else can wait until the next morning.
Q: While I'm working on an assignment for a client, I find myself constantly interrupted by spontaneous demands from supervisors. These interruptions keep me from reaching my goals and increase the feeling of being overwhelmed and stressed. Suggestions?
A: Tell supervisors that you prefer to work a straight hour without interruptions because you are not being as effective as you could be, Cora said. Then have time set aside to respond to calls or questions. Work for 45 minutes straight, or 90 minutes, and leave 15 minutes to respond to calls.
Don't have e-mails popping up all the time. Maybe even put on your e-mail signature that you will respond every 90 minutes. Make sure whatever schedule you create is comfortable for you. You can use this schedule at home, too. If you want quality time with family, do an activity for 45 minutes and then spend 15 minutes responding to phone calls and e-mail.
Q: I'm a single mother who needs her job. My company went through layoffs last year, and my position was spared. But I'm not certain my job is secure. I'm afraid to call in sick or leave early to pick up my daughter. I feel I have to put my job before my family and it causes me stress. How can I better manage this situation?
A: The more afraid you are about losing your job, the more likely you are to manifest that, said Evie Hernandez, a certified life and business coach in Miami. When you act out of fear, you get lower results. Remember what you want; most likely, it is balance. Come at it from a position of power vs. fear. Focus on being the best employee you can on that particular day. That might mean staying as late as you can and leaving to go pick up your daughter when she needs to be picked up. If you did not do your best for your family, when your head hits the pillow, you will feel guilty and stressed.