What causes you stress at work? When you think about it, there can be many reasons.
Maybe it’s a heavy workload. It could be a lack of resources.
Sometimes it is caused by coworkers. Or dealing with unrealistic deadlines.
Too often, it seems to come from a lack of decision making and prioritization.
There could be major changes happening in your industry. Or ti could be that you simply have a bad boss.
Work can be stressful under any of these circumstances, and many of us face more than one of these on any given day.
Adding to the frustration is the sense that there just isn’t much we can do to change any of these things. We feel like victims of circumstance.
But there are things you can do. Because no matter what stressors you face, you have a choice in how you choose to face them.
I learned this by accident, but it has been a valuable lesson just the same. And it has helped me tremendously over the years.
A Healthy Sense of Detachment
My formative years were spent in consulting. That’s a unique way to work in that you are working shoulder to shoulder with people on some of their most important and exciting projects.
In many ways you face more pressure and scrutiny because there is a hefty fee being charged for your contributions.
But in other ways, you face less stress because you are more emotionally detached from the environment. You are part of the team, but you are not a permanent member. The organization is not your direct employer.
To be an effective consultant, you need to focus relentlessly on the work and stay out of the politics, other than including these in the calculations of how to get the work done.
You have to have a dispassionate view of things and be able to evaluate everything as objectively as possible.
It is simply unprofessional to get too emotionally involved in the situation.
You don’t want your doctor crying when talking about a diagnosis or your lawyer nervously wringing her hands when discussing options. You want a clear-headed professional.
Of course they are aware of and calculating according to the human reality of any given situation, but they do not become wrapped up in it in a way that diminishes their contribution.
Learning to operate with a strong sense of objectivity turned out to be a powerful way for me to operate when I “jumped the fence” and joined organizations more permanently.
The Objective Viewpoint
The thing is, our situations can become much more manageable when we view them more objectively.
This is why discussing your situation with a friend or mentor–particularly one outside of your organization–is often enlightening.
They are viewing the situation more objectively.
Checking in with that viewpoint can be a really helpful touchstone. It can help to remove some of the emotion from the situation.
Stress is an emotion that can be difficult to control. But stress-management is a skill. And that can be learned. And honed and improved.
A good place to start is to figure out how to gain a more objective viewpoint. To remember that you are not your job.
You are a sort of consultant, here to make a specific contribution for the thing you are working on now. And that the situation will change over time.
This is becoming more and more true in the “gig economy” and in the relationships many organizations have with staff. It’s also a healthy attitude for you as an individual.
Getting caught up in the emotional roller coaster ride isn’t going to help you or the organization in most cases.
This doesn’t mean you should become a robot. It just means taking time to recognize that you are not so embedded in your situation that it needs to be all-consuming.
It means that you probably have more control over your stress than you think.
After all, you get to choose how you respond. And that can be a game-changer. If you take a moment to visit the touchstone of objectivity before you let your emotions rule the day.
Most of the time, when we put things in perspective, we can realize that the emotional investment just isn’t worth it. And that a more objective response will spare us the heartache as well as lead to better results.