5 Tips For Minimizing Second-Hand Stress At Work

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I watched a fascinating segment the other night on TV about "second-hand stress." A study shows how our own stress levels get elevated when we are around people who are stressed. You can read and watch more about it here.

Good Reason To Escape Stress-Filled Work Environments

After watching this, my immediate reaction was, "Here's the proof people need to find a new employer." How many people do you know (or, maybe it's you), that are dealing with managers or co-workers that stress them out to the point of making them depressed or sick? In my line of work, I see too many people absorbing second-hand stress on-the-job.

Is Any Work Environment Stress-Free?

However, while the initial reaction may be to quit or find a new employer, we have to think this through carefully to avoid, as they say, "jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire." Every job is going to have stressful situations. We don't get paid to relax, we get paid to work - and hard work comes with stress from time-to-time.

5 Tips For Controlling Second-Hand Stress

In my experience, when we set more realistic expectations about what we can expect from work, our co-workers, and managers, we set ourselves up for success. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
  1. Remind yourself daily that not everyone can be happy, positive and helpful every day of their lives. Give people room to have a bad day.
  2. Become more informed about the different types of Interaction Styles in the workplace and how you can leverage this knowledge to improve your communications with your office mates and boss. (Here's a free test designed to help you understand whether you are a Contemplator, Commander, Energizer, or Empathizer in the workplace.)
  3. Create boundries and structure with challenging employees. Instead of telling them their behavior is stressing you out and potentially causing a riff, focus on setting up communication protocols that limit when and how they interact with you.
  4. Become better at checking your own emotions and insecurities at the door. Don't let someone's bad day become yours. You control how you feel. Work to train your brain to not react to every person's behavior.
  5. When things get too bad, seek help from an outside party. Reaching out to co-workers or managers about a difficult employee usually backfires and puts you at risk for being sucked into office politics (he said, she said). Instead, seek the help of a career coach or counselor who can privately work with you to come up with ways you can reduce the second-hand stress.
Stress in the workplace is a fact of life. While we can't eliminate it entirely, we can proactively try to improve our skills in managing stress - especially, second-hand stress.

How Do YOU Handle Second-Hand Stress?

I'd love to hear from readers what they do to manage the stress put on to them by others in their workplace.

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