Work can be stressful. Sometimes a situation can be so horrible, it’s incapacitating. Men and women both perceive and deal with stress differently (see the attached article from WebMD). But, both sexes need to focus on practical steps. You are, after all, more than your job. You deserve to live your life without debilitating stress.
How do you handle a controlling boss? How can you work for someone who doesn’t care about their employees? How do you handle corruption, deceitfulness, or dishonesty?
Lately, I’ve heard people giving advice to quit your toxic job – even before finding a new one – because stress can kill you. I personally think not having a job would be more stressful. After all, who’s going to pay the bills, put food on the table, or keep the roof over your head. When your basic life needs are not being met, that will rock you at the core. Just ask Maslow. I say don’t quit your job and don’t quit on rising above.
From a practical aspect, what do you do? I attended a workshop about how to diffuse the angry customer. The entire workshop was about how you can change what you say and do. Why? Because we can only control ourselves. Learn a little about the person in front of you and change how you approach them. All you can do is control yourself – your mood, your reaction, your emotions.
Smart Communication. Choosing when to speak to someone is important. Don’t talk to someone just as they walk in the door or as they are leaving for the day. Ever have a boss hand you a letter on their way out? Unnerving, to say the least. Send an email stating you want to talk to them – giving an indication on the topic and the amount of time you think you’ll need for the meeting. You may need to further indicate when you need to see them by – just in case they are avoiding speaking with you.
Watch your Tone. Try to smile and think positive thoughts when you are writing or speaking. No matter what the topic, at least pretend you are excited to talk to this person about a hopeful situation. In person, watch your body language and tone of voice. In a voicemail, keep it simple and without feeling. If you want the meeting to be positive, remember you can only control yourself – and how you spin it.
Meet. You will eventually need to speak to them and work with them.
- Meet in person so you can get a better read of the situation. Watch both body language and tone – both yours and theirs. If you notice your tone changing or your posture taking a defensive position, correct it.
- Try to approach each meeting fresh, keep in mind your end goal, restate objectives, and end with asking what else you can do to make the task better and easier on both of you.
- Discuss deadlines with a realistic timeline. Who is responsible for what? What are the check points along the timeline to verify the project/you are on track?
- Send an email to recap your discussion and to clarify points, timelines, or deadlines. This is to verify you are on the same page – it’s also called cover your butt.
- Never type something while you are dealing with strong feelings. Respond to an email with facts and watch your tone. Speak simply and without exaggeration. If possible, wait a day before sending out an email – read it over and verify it’s content before hitting the SEND button.
When do you want to avoid someone at work?
- If you are working with a toxic person, not just a difficult person, you may try some avoidance. I know, I know. I can almost guarantee you that this is not going to be a suggestion in any psychology journal. But, I think anyone would agree that you shouldn’t try to become this person’s friend – no one is that sadistic.
- Do you have a set schedule? If not, can you create reasons why you need to work a different shift than theirs? Perhaps they are off on the weekends and you are happy to fill in on those days. Maybe they work all mornings and you can work the closing shift. Is there a program or project that will schedule you to another shift? You may overlap with them – but you can limit your time with them.
- Don’t respond to their their tone and behavior. Sometimes it is best to not acknowledge their behavior. Though don’t take abuse or bullying. Not everyone you encounter is professional and you may encounter situations you need to address. You can say, “I’m sorry, is there a reason you are yelling?” “Please do not point your finger at me and talk to me in that tone.” If a situation gets really bad, you may need a mediator. I remember having to sit in the room with a co-worker every time she needed to speak to our boss. Why? The boss accused her of trying to hit her – completely insane accusation.
- Do you have a job you can incorporate your talents or hobbies? Find ways to enjoy parts of your job.
- Yes, it helps to talk to your co-workers about what is going on with ‘the boss’ because you are likely in the same boat. But, don’t burn out your team with the daily toxic discussion.
- Be genuine and kind to your co-workers.
- My general rule of thumb is “if I don’t want to do it, I’m not going to ask someone else to do it” – help one another out.
- Have confidants you can go to when you need a new perspective, to vent, or need a hug. Be careful who you become friends with at work. In my opinion, you should be open and nice to your co-workers; but that doesn’t mean you need to be friends with them. I would recommend finding a few people you can confide in – you need support.
- Don’t engage in gossip or listen to rumors. This will not help your situation.
What can you do for you that will help?
Drink water and eat right. Some people stress eat or forget to eat. You have to take care of you. Taking breaks at work to have a healthy snack will help your body and mood. Here’s an article from WebMD about how “Food Affects Your Mood”.
Go outside. I don’t know if it is in my Polish blood or not – but I have vivid memories of great aunts and uncles insisting going outside would cure any ailment. Head cold? Put on your coat and go walk in the freezing temperatures. Hangover? Go sit on the porch. There’s a cool article from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation – about how your health can benefit just being in a forest. And this one from the The Huffington Post about getting your daily steps in can help your mood.
Exercise. Go for a walk, swim, or bike ride. Get on a treadmill, get off the couch and walk in place, stretch, do yoga. We are all different – so do whatever you can to be active.
Be positive. Sometimes we need to vent. Sometimes we need to go to the angry place (thanks, Cindy Shutts). But how do negative thoughts affect us? Negative thoughts are known to multiply, increase stress, and keep us from being our best selves. They harm us. Here’s one article about this: Scientific Proof That Negative Beliefs Harm Your Health. Change your mindset. Each time a negative thought crosses your mind – let it go and replace it with a positive thought. That sounds simple, but if you do this often enough, you will feel the difference.
Practice mindfulness. If you’ve never done this before, start with breathing. Take in a breath, hold it, and release it. Do this five times. Each time concentrate on the breath, slow it down, and steady it – don’t force it.
Go on Pinterest and type “mindfulness”. You will find many resources defining what mindfulness is and how to incorporate it into your life.
Be creative. Engage in some creative activity that keeps your mind on other things. There is a new article from Psychology Today from June 30, 2015 about how adult coloring is not a form of mindfulness and there are a lot of misconceptions about it. I have to disagree with the doctor who wrote the article. I have seen adults transform through mindfulness and I have seen adults transform through coloring. Each force us to pause and let go of what is around us. That in itself is enough of a link for me. But, since I’m not a doctor, here’s the link for the article: Are You Having A Relationship With An Adult Coloring Book?. And so happy to find other articles that contradict that article: Coloring Isn’t Just For Kids and The Psychological Case For Adult Play Time.
Have your resume up-to-date and check out job boards frequently. Why? You may need to find another job. It’s good to keep up on what is going on in your field. Are you keeping your skills current? How’s the job market? You can learn about trends and changes in your field. If you see a company who keeps posting openings – ask yourself why. Are they expanding? Do they let people go frequently? Do employees leave like the building is on fire? Do they have a lot of starter positions and no room for growth?
If you do start your job search, it’s good to have a support system. Finding a new job is not easy. Finding a full-time job is even harder. Find a mentor to:
- Make this a fun adventure with hope for the future – over coffee or brunch perhaps.
- Talk about job postings. What are the trends? What type of jobs suit you?
- Review your resume.
- Go over interview questions. Brainstorm awesome answers.
- Create a portfolio.
- Talk about your dreams and your frustrations. What is your end goal? Make plans.
What I learned – sometimes the hard way:
- If you don’t know something, admit it and don’t take the opinions of those around you as your only advice. When I was a library director, I would do as board members suggested even when a red flag went off in my mind. I ultimately regretted many of those moments for not taking time to investigate further or follow my instincts.
- If you are being harassed or bullied – don’t put up with it. I usually laugh things off or think I can change a situation. Don’t do this. I have been sexually harassed twice in my career – by bosses. It’s not flattering and it’s not right. I was embarrassed and felt I had done something wrong. Whenever someone reports this to me now, I take it seriously and follow through with the complaint. I didn’t have that kind of support system.
- I worked in a toxic environment for too many years. I still have a hard time talking about that experience – where I put the job before my family – before myself. I was bullied by politicians, had my tires slashed, had work-related injuries (didn’t sue or claim workers comp), was under constant scrutiny, and was put on the firing line for letting an employee go (that I didn’t want to fire – but that’s another long story).
- Don’t work with family and friends. People can use it against you, both of you. And when something goes wrong (as it will because we are all human), it’s double the trouble.
- You don’t have to be cold because you are the boss or because you don’t want to be friends with your co-workers. People are people and should be treated kindly.
- Take your breaks, your vacations, and your own time. Try not to take these at the expense of others – but do take them. You need to remember you are more important than your job.
- Stay true to yourself. Be honest.
- Be strong. Have a support system because we can’t always be strong.
- Communicate opening and truthfully. Watch your tone, body language, and gauge your feelings.
- Listen to music. Break out into dance. Be silly. Have fun.
- Sometimes things change – so don’t bail on a job you love because you are in a toxic situation. But don’t stay in a toxic job too long.
- When you are feeling down – maybe sorry for yourself, watch Joe Versus the Volcano. I watch this movie every time I’m feeling down. It reminds me that even those with Brain Clouds can be brave.
~I’m here to help
Want more? Here are some interesting articles:
Amy. (August 24, 2015). Coloring for Adults: Your Complete Guide. Retrieved from: http://diycandy.com/2015/08/coloring-for-adults-101-your-complete-guide/
Burton, Natasha. (September 22, 2014). How To Survive A Toxic Workplace. Retrieved from: https://www.dailyworth.com/posts/2954-how-to-survive-a-toxic-workplace/1
Chapman, Susan Gillis. (May 3, 2013). Red, Green, Yellow. (Effective Communication). Retrieved from: http://www.mindful.org/stop-go-wait/
Gallo, Amy. (September 22, 2011). Stop Being Micromanaged. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2011/09/stop-being-micromanaged
Hayes, Andy. (June 2015). How to Leave a Toxic Work Environment. Retrieved from: http://www.thechangeblog.com/toxic-work-environment/
Meredith, Via Claire. (September 10, 2015). 5 Strategies for Surviving a Corporate Job You’re No Longer In Love With. Retrieved from: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/09/5-strategies-for-surviving-a-corporate-job-youre-no-longer-in-love-with/
Weinstein, Bob. (2011). 10 Tips for Dealing with a Bully Boss. Retrieved from: http://www.cio.com.au/article/198499/10_tips_dealing_bully_boss/
Wilding, Melody. (November 15, 2014). 7 Signs Your Workplace is Toxic. Retrieved from: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/11/13/7-signs-your-workplace-is-toxic/
Find more resources on my Pinterest Boards – here are a few links: