Work Stress: Tips For Dealing With Common Workplace Problems

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BY DR SARAH HUGHES

Your Boss Sets Unreasonable Deadlines

Working overtime to meet your boss’s unrealistic expectations will make you stressed (not to mention resentful), and in the longer-term you’ll eventually burn out.  Your boss won’t change unless you re-calibrate his or her expectations.  Each time you work through lunch or stay late to meet a deadline, you inadvertently tell your boss –

Do you have to work overtime to meet unrealistic deadlines?

Do you have to work overtime to meet unrealistic deadlines?

“The workload you’re giving me is entirely reasonable and so are your deadlines”. Unless you start to say no, your boss won’t know that their expectations are unrealistic.  If the thought of saying no sends you into cold sweats, find a way to say no without actually using the n word. 

Next time your boss asks you to complete a task and you know you’re not going to be able to get it done in time ask for their help in prioritizing tasks by saying something like

“Sure. I’m working on Task A at the moment because the deadline we set for that is Friday.  I’m happy to do Task B as well but it will mean I won’t have time to get Task A finished by Friday. Which task would you like me to prioritise?”

You’ve Just Been Promoted Over A Colleague

It’s easy to list the pros of promotion.  There’s the self-satisfaction and sense of achievement, the pay rise, the new (more senior) title, and did I mention the pay rise?  The cons?  The disgruntled colleagues within your team who weren’t promoted alongside you.

As much as you want to try to maintain the same relationship you’ve always had with your colleagues you can’t ignore that things have changed.  It will be uncomfortable giving instructions and delegating tasks to people who used to be your peers, but pretending that you’re not the boss will likely make things harder for you in the longer term.  New rules apply and the sooner you establish new boundaries the easier the transition will be.

Your Colleagues are Lazy

Ever wanted to scream at a lazy colleague?

Ever wanted to scream at a lazy colleague?

Working alongside colleagues who don’t pull their weight is beyond frustrating, but if you’re picking up the slack to meet deadlines – stop!  No matter how good you are at your job, it’s not possible for you to carry your own workload AND someone else’s.  Trying will just make you burnt out and resentful.  Going to your boss to complain can also make life harder for you in the longer-term.  While your complaint is probably justified, it may come at the cost of being ostracised by your colleagues.

Instead of going over your colleagues head, try dividing the workload in meetings and make sure that individual names are put against specific tasks.  Focus on your own tasks and resist the urge to pick up the slack if you know a deadline will be missed because a colleague hasn’t completed their allocated job.  Remember that if you continue to save colleagues by completing their work for them, they’ll continue to let you and the cycle will continue.

You’re More Friends Than Employee To Your Boss

Having a positive relationship with your boss is a good thing, but being too friendly with your boss can open a can of worms.  If you’re friends with your boss it’s harder to say no to unreasonable requests and you’re more likely to forget yourself and say or do things you’ll later regret, like pass on office gossip or give personal advice.

You have every right to vent about office politics or cry over a breakup, but if you do it in your workplace your boss might start to question your professionalism, even if they seem to be sympathetic and supportive.  It’s good to be on friendly terms with your boss, but make sure you keep appropriate boundaries. Try not to see your boss one on one outside work hours and limit how much personal information you share with them. If you feel lost, look to to your colleagues to see how they interact with your boss and follow their lead.

Dr. Sarah Hughes is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Think Clinical Psychologists. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, postnatal depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and challenging behaviour.