You’ve been there before. And maybe you’re currently experiencing it while reading this. You’re at work, and maybe it’s the office gossip or the micromanager or the loud chewer or the weekly meeting that never seems to accomplish anything other than distracting you from your countless deadlines. You’re stressed! There’s no denying the various ways stress can affect your body, and when it’s workplace stress? It’s a Monday through Friday struggle. This is a totally normal feeling, and it’s no surprise that stress is on the rise for most Americans.
However, everyone’s idea of stress can be different. While you might enjoy the camaraderie of an open floor plan, another coworker may experience extreme discomfort. Or your talkative work wife who feels the need to tell everyone about her night might be hella annoying and even distracting to someone a few feet away. And pretty much everyone has had it up to here with the meaningless meetings.
To give you the tools you need to recognize annoying workplace behaviors in yourself and others, HelloGiggles spoke with a variety of experts to weigh in on common workplace stressors and how to alleviate them. It’s Stress Awareness Month — so there’s no better time to rethink how you relate to your coworkers.
1 The dreaded “talk”
“Any ‘I need to talk to you’ communication: be it an email, a text, a voicemail message, or a call [is stressful]. Requests from our colleagues that they need to speak to us harken back to scoldings and punishments we received from our parents as children,” says Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, a clinical and consulting psychotherapist.
2 Using a million different modes of communication
Wellness expert and co-founder of Stop, Breathe & Think Jamie Price says the sheer volume of office communication can be daunting for anyone. “It can be a struggle to stay up to speed with emails, messages, project-managing platforms, phone calls, and simple face-to-face conversations.”
3 Being a toxic coworker
There’s no doubt negative or downright annoying co-workers (gossipers, credit stealers, whiners, naysayers) can create a toxic environment. And according to author of The Hope-Driven Leader, Libby Gill, this negativity circulates.
“What makes this type of stress so challenging is that toxicity can spread from one person to another until the entire team feels burdened by undue pressure and negativity. Often, without even knowing why,” she says.
4 Oversharing and habitual line-stepping
Talking too much about your Friday night conquest? You might be a line-stepper. Texas-based counselor Heidi McBain says, “These are the people that are talking about things that are not appropriate to be discussing at work, the people dominating conversations, interrupting your work, and not reading social cues that you’re busy. Basically, the people that are making your work environment an uncomfortable place for you and those around you.”
5 Not respecting an open floor plan
If your job ditched individual offices and cubicles and switched to side-by-side desks, then you know the annoyances of a co-worker popping gum or talking loudly. Dana Case, director of operations for MyCorporation.com, suggests plugging in earbuds (if your manager allows this) and listening to calming music. “This will help drown out the background noise while keeping you focused on the task at hand.”
6 Setting unproductive meetings
Lengthy meetings that lack a purpose are major time-wasters, says Evernote productivity expert Dorothy Spira, whose company has a “no agenda, no attenda” motto. “Longer meetings don’t necessarily lead to increased productivity or success and instead interrupt workflow, leading to rushed deliverables and that overwhelmed feeling.”
7 Constant change
This might not be something you’re doing, but it’s definitely a workplace stressor.
“One of the biggest work stressors I see is when people are dealing with constant change,” says Gill. She adds that this dread of the unknown and instability can create stress and physical symptoms, such as neck tension and an upset stomach.
8 Clutter, clutter everywhere
Spira says that a disorganized office or desk just leads to wasted time, and can cause stress for those around you. “Digital and physical clutter create unnecessary distractions, which decreases productivity and increases stress.”
While you’ve probably experienced one or more of the stressful situations listed here, and they can feel overwhelming, it’s important to take a step back and breathe. And it’s just as important to take a mental time-out if you realize you are the person who might be causing the workplace stress.
“When you’re experiencing workplace stress, keep the big picture in mind. Consider the role that your current job is playing in your long-term goal for the future,” says therapist Alisha Powell. “Get a good self-care regimen and do things outside of the workplace that recharge and refresh you.”
Many of the experts suggest communicating any grievances to a supervisor, evaluating why you’re feeling stressed, and exercising. Good luck — you got this!