Sometimes, it’s like there’s this strange, uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach that seldom goes away. Other times, it comes out in the form of headaches, stomach aches, or other physical symptoms. Workplace stress is taxing on those who experience it, as causes both physical and mental strain.
According to information published by the CDC, “problems at work are more strongly associated with health complaints than are any other life stressor-more so than even financial problems or family problems.”
Are you stressed at work? If so, you’re certainly not the only one, as stress affects the vast majority of the American workforce. Survey data from a Harris Interactive poll last year found that an astonishing 83 percent of Americans experience at least some form of stress on the job.
Why are we so stressed out?
To find out more about such stress and how to make work life a little easier, we asked John Stoker, author of the book Overcoming Fake Talk: How to Hold REAL Conversations That Create Respect, Build Relationships, and Get Results. Read on to see his advice.
1. Communication problems with co-workers and management
Clear communication is absolutely essential in any workplace environment — horizontally and vertically. Stoker’s book addresses how many of us “fake talk,” instead of being direct and to the point. “You and I could just sit here and chit chat and that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re engaging in fake talk,” says Stoker. Whether it’s in a personal relationship, at work with a co-worker, a boss, or a direct report, sometimes we’ll avoid or dance around the real issue. The end result is that we think the issue is handled and then nothing is resolved, he adds. Communication issues are major causes of workplace stress.
Say you are reliant on a co-worker to turn data into you by 3 p.m. each day. If you receive the data late, you’ll have to stay at work late, like you’ve had to do many times before as a result of your co-worker’s inefficiency. Each day, you walk up to her and say, “So, I’ll be ready for that data at 3,” thinking you’re lighting a fire under your co-worker. Although you may be reminding her, you’re neglecting to tell her the real problem. It’s generally more effective to be direct and detailed: “I really need you to have that data to me at 3 o’clock. I have been working late to finish my part, and I need to leave work on time.”
Not only can your own ineffective communication tactics stress you out, if co-workers and superiors communicate ineffectively at work, this can be a stressful as well. If I’m a new hire working in a new department and this is a first-time job for me, and I don’t have a leader that’s very clear about what he wants — what his expectations are — then I’m kind of hanging on a limb trying to figure out what to do, hoping I can get it right, explains Stoker.