Our offices are a world full of tight deadlines and endless to-do lists. In such cases, stress often builds up inside us and spills out on our colleagues, who may also be struggling with pressures of their own. When that happens, there is a risk of perpetuating a vicious circle, where you mirror and magnify each other’s stressful frenzy.
While you can’t control other’s behavior, implementing small behavioral changes to make your office a more pleasant place to work, does make a significant difference. More obvious ways include refraining from yelling or making sarcastic comments. Strive to reduce office negativity and stress with these three small but powerful strategies:
1. Be more clear.
Stop sending vague messages that your co-worker might interpret negatively. For example, don’t send a late-night email to a co-worker that says, “We need to talk,” without further explanation, as that could trigger an unhelpful cascade. They might think: Is there a problem? What did I do? Is she going to reprimand me?
Some people deliberately leverage vague messages as a power play, knowing they’ll make others wonder and worry. Either way, it inflicts an inexcusable psychic toll. If you want to be a better colleague, stop doing it.
Think about what you need to say to your colleague and write it in a short email with bullet points. If you have the opportunity to discuss things over coffee, even better!
2. Reply to your emails right away.
Treat your colleagues as your internal clients and reply to their messages and queries within 24 hours. Sorting through hundreds of email can be overwhelming, and people often miss out on important emails from their colleagues. Sometimes, people deliberately choose not to reply because they “have no time.”
The truth is, everyone has time – we just choose who we want to give our time to. If a colleague has taken the time to compose a message and sent it to you, the least you can do is reply to them. Spend an hour in the morning and in the afternoon to reply all the pending messages in your inbox.
It will make you feel good to see “No New Messages” in your inbox at the end of the day.
3. Focus on your work.
Stop looking over your colleagues’ shoulders and trust that they would deliver on their responsibilities. If you’re the boss, it’s tempting to watch your team’s every move to ensure they’re performing, on time and on budget. That’s a laudable impulse, but the net result is that your colleagues feel hounded, mistrusted, and micromanaged. In fact, scrutinizing them too closely is likely to make them perform worse, according to the phenomenon of “choking under pressure.”
Focus on your own tendencies, instead. Know that responsible professionals thrive when they’re given autonomy, and work with them to establish a timeline and agreed-upon metrics of progress. That way, you can check in at appropriate intervals and they won’t feel blindsided. That takes the pressure off and allows them to do their best work.
It’s not surprising that when one is stressed out, the feeling often spreads to others at work. Create a better work environment by finding ways to minimize stress as much as possible. By limiting vague messages, responding to specific requests in a timely fashion, and giving your colleagues a bit more leeway, you can do your part to stop the contagion of workplace stress — because you already have enough of our own.
Do you have other tips on strategies to reduce office stress? Share them in the comments below.