From tricky bosses to major screw ups, we’ve all been there. We asked a careers coach for the best ways to combat stress when work gets rough…
How should you deal with work-related stress? From gossipy co-workers to over-demanding bosses, impending deadlines to achieving the elusive perfect work-life balance, our jobs can pose a gauntlet of stumbling blocks that can make getting through the work day a pretty tough ask.
Seeing as we spend around 8 to 9 hours a day at work (excluding our commutes), finding proactive ways to cope with our office dramas seems like the only way to make the situation all the more bearable. However, doing so without losing friends and alienating people can prove to be tricky. We asked careers coach and Get The Gloss Expert Anna Percy-Davis for her top tips to combat stress and advice when it comes to dealing with difficult colleagues, bosses and growing workloads to ensure that work woes no longer get us down.
How to be more organised at work
If it feels like you’re fighting a losing battle with your to-do list, don’t worry, you’re not alone. There’s nothing more demotivating than reaching the end of the day and not having ticked off a single thing on your notepad.
We bet that if we were to ask any successful person in business what their insider tricks were, they would probably pinpoint preparation and forward-planning as two vital attributes. “Spend a few minutes at the beginning and end of every day making a plan,” suggests Anna. “Make sure you have a list with three have-tos, three nice-to-dos and three will-dos-if-I-get-a-chance. Review this list at the beginning and end of every day. Celebrate what you have achieved and review what you haven't.”
Don’t make your plans too inflexible though. “Slow down - pause and take stock regularly - it is so much easier to be organised if we keep reviewing where we are at and we keep checking that we have a plan,” says Anna. “Have a vision for your day, week, month or year and make sure you are working towards that. Otherwise, you will just focus on whatever comes up, which is a sure-fire way to feel disorganised and out of control.”
There are only so many hours in the day so be reasonable in your expectations of yourself. If it’s all getting a bit too overwhelming despite your best efforts, it’s time to raise it with your boss. “If you are really struggling to get any items done, then it is time to take stock - was your list realistic in the first place (don't set yourself up to fail every day!) or do you need to enlist the help of someone else? Don't be too hard on yourself - sometimes we set the bar too high and if we fall into the trap of telling ourselves we are not good enough, then stress etc. will naturally skyrocket,” Anna explains.
How to be more assertive in the office
Somewhere between meekness and forcefulness lies the sweet spot of assertiveness. Authoritative without being pushy, it’s the ideal that everyone aspires too that allows you to make your voice heard without coming on too strong. “Avoid falling into the aggressive trap,” cautions Anna though. “There is a big difference between aggression and assertion. You want to remain calm and clear so make sure you have done your homework and you know what you want to say and show that you really believe in your message.”
Got an important meeting coming up? A compliment goes a long way - provided it’s sincere. People can smell a brown-noser from a mile away. “It is much easier to be assertive if you have a receptive audience, so take time at the beginning of a conversation or meeting getting everyone on side - just a genuine smile, a compliment or acknowledgement will front foot the whole communication and can make all the difference.”
If you’re not a naturally confident person, acting like you are at work can seem like the hardest thing in the world. Don’t overthink it, start small and fake it until end of play each day and you’ll be surprised how quickly your brain adapts to this new ritual. “The more confidently you act, the more people will treat you confidently and the easier it will be to feel confident and to be assertive,” explains Anna.
How to deal with over-competitive colleagues
Some people can end up showing their true colours when put in a work environment. Whether it’s underhanded tactics, undermining comments or office bitchiness getting you down, try your best to treat it as unemotionally as possible by taking control of the situation and turning the negatives into positives in order to let your attributes shine through. “Try and keep the competitiveness in a ‘healthy’ place,” recommends Anna, “Competition can be a force for good - it keeps you on your toes, focused and aware of how you are performing. If it is getting out of control, take some responsibility for how you are reacting - remember you have a choice as to how you react. Avoid the trap of letting the competitiveness make you feel inadequate or defeated.”
Taking an unattached approach also helps - remind yourself that those responsible are your work colleagues and your life lies outside the office walls. If things come to a head, stay professional and don’t get tearful, get revenge by not giving them the attention they crave and make plans with the more positive influences in your life. “Walk away when it’s all too intense and find yourself a champion who reminds you that you are doing just fine!” says Anna.
How to manage a tricky boss
Handling a troublesome colleague is one thing, but what happens when the trouble comes from the top? A position that can often leave you feeling helpless, the key lies in recognising your boss is human also. “Try and work out why they behave the way they do - if you can understand where it is coming from, that can help you manage it,” advises Anna.
“Don't personalise it - the trickiness often has nothing to do with you, so don't take responsibility for his or her behaviour. Work out if there is anything you do that triggers a particularly bad reaction and try and avoid these triggers.”
Sometimes though, their actions can just be plain inexplicable and it’s best to start collating facts to support your case if your ever need a helping hand. “If all else fails, make sure you document any bad incidents as you will need this evidence if you talk to HR or your bosses boss...” suggests Anna.
How to achieve a better work-life balance
More of a live to work, rather than a work to live kind of person at the moment? Keeping everyone happy can end up being both emotionally and physically draining. However, take comfort from the fact that there will be times that everyone finds that they get it right and times when they get it oh so wrong. But don’t beat yourself up about it. If your health starts taking a backseat to your job, try viewing trips to the gym or workout classes less like chores and more as ways to help prepare you for the challenges of the week ahead. You’ll end up viewing exercise in a completely different light.
“Do your best to eat and sleep well and to exercise - it is so much easier to feel a sense of balance if you are eating healthily, getting enough sleep and are getting regular exercise,” recommends Anna. “The more organised you are, the easier it is to feel a sense of balance and for you to be able to gauge if your workload is too heavy - if it is too heavy then find the courage to do something about it,” she adds. An external view can also help alter your mindset, “Find yourself a neutral sounding board (a coach perhaps) - an outside perspective can help you find the right work-life balance,” suggests Anna.
How to increase your chances of promotion…
Whether you’re stuck in a career rut or looking to boost your resume, keeping the lines of communication open with your bosses and learning more about how someone you admire got to the position they’re in can be extremely useful in ensuring that you continue to build your skill set in the best possible way. “Be very clear on what is expected of you to get up to the next rung - having a vague idea might find you spending time doing the wrong things,” recommends Anna. “Make sure the right people know you want to work towards promotion and try and get them on your side and supporting your career path.”
Refrain from dirty tactics. It’s not worth selling your soul for a bigger pay check. Plus, if your bosses ever get wind of any questionable goings-on, the damage to your reputation could be irreparable. “Never trample on anyone else in order to get promoted,” cautions Anna. “If you possibly can, try and make your possible promotion an advantage to everyone else around you so they can help and support you along the way.”
How to survive a screw up…
No matter how hard you try to avoid it, there will be at least one occasion where you well and truly monumentally cock up. We all will and the sooner we accept this truth, the better we'll be able to cope with it when it happens. When it does, take a deep breath, and just follow Anna’s 5-point plan:
1. Be honest - covering your tracks can have you end up in a far worse situation if you get caught.
2. Take responsibility - blaming someone else can make you an enemy for life.
3. Use it as a learning opportunity and make sure your boss knows what you learned from the experience.
4. Apologise and eat humble pie if that's what it takes for everyone to move on.
5. Don't catastrophise - is it really as bad as you think?
At the end of the day, life moves on. In 6 months, 3 months, even a month’s time, it’ll be old news and in all likelihood, someone else will be in the hot seat - and you’ll be in the perfect position to advise them on how best to get over it.
And how to turn a bad day good…
When everything just seems to be going wrong, there are some easy quick-fixes that we can all try to get out of our heads and put things back into perspective. “Get out of the office, even if just for 5-10 minutes - go for a quick walk and clear your head,” suggests Anna. “Find a ‘balcony’ person - someone who will affirm you and help you feel OK.” And if you still feel like throwing your computer out of the window – “Stop, take a few breaths, close your eyes and when you open them start the day again. If you tell yourself you are having a bad day, you will have a bad day, so change that message.”
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