PANIC at the office? How to Handle Stressful Work Situations

In this October series: Bewitching Business, we’re showing you how to tackle the ghoulish part of the working world, from enchanting your employer to eradicating ghosts from your position’s past. Don’t let the office life haunt you – spread your magic and craft the career you deserve.

Work stress happens to us all. When we take pride in our jobs and spend a major chunk of our lives in the office, it’s impossible not to eventually run across a situation that raises our blood pressure. Today, we’re examining four common stressful work situations, and how to handle them. Read on for tips to be the calmest cucumber in her cubical.

Situation #1: An unrealistic deadline

Whether it’s a deadline right before a big vacation, having too much on your plate already, or even getting a deadline that is just too short for the project, you’re hearing alarm bells. Before you panic, take some time to realistically consider what you feel would be a reasonable timeline to meet the expectations of the project. Then it’s time to communicate it, clearly and calmly. You might try to frame it as a positive (“if I had more time I could…”). After all this, if the deadline is truly inflexible, talk to your supervisor to understand why the deadline might be important to your department or company – it could change your perspective and help you rework your priorities to get it done in time.

Situation #2: A rude email from a coworker

Office dynamics can be fragile if there is friction threatening to break professionalism. When receiving a note with a perceived nasty tone, step one is to give the benefit of the doubt. Tone does not always translate via email, think: could there be another way to read this email? If it’s blatant, take a few deep breaths, avoid sending a snappy reply, and take if offline. Calling or chatting face-to-face can automatically defuse the tension and lead to a clearer view of the situation. Perhaps you were both having a tough day – talking face-to-face could make you both feel better. The biggest thing to remember: no one will remember your point a month from now, but they will remember your demeanor.

Situation #3: Layoff rumors going around the office

Firstly, rumors are just that, so start by taking a deep breath. Until you have a conversation with a reliable source, there is no need to panic. However, there are some harmless things you can do to be prepared in case of the worst. Take a half hour to update your resume and consider what your other options are. It’s a great exercise to remember your skill set, worth, and accomplishments. Who knows, maybe through this exercise, you’ll find a job posting for a new career move or position shift somewhere else that you would have never found had you not had a little scare.

Situation #4: Getting negative feedback

Getting critical feedback can sometimes be difficult, particularly if you take a lot of pride in your work. Start by remembering that the feedback is strictly about the work and not about you or your character (if it is, perhaps it’s worth getting HR involved). Change your perspective – try to look at this through the lens of having an opportunity to show your higher-ups that you can take direction and are flexible enough to make a change. That is a well-respected quality. If you don’t agree with the feedback, try it anyway. If ultimately it’s making your job harder, or isn’t working for you, sit down and have a follow up discussion in a few weeks. Showing you made an effort and respect their feedback is always a win.

No matter the situation, you have the skills to handle it. Take a few deep breaths, go for a walk, get a snack, keep yourself steady, and you will make it through even the most unexpected stress around the workplace.

If the work life is spooking you, keep an eye out for more editions of Bewitching Business where we treat you to the tricks of the trade.