Typically, when we think about interpersonal stress in the workplace, we tend to focus on the stress that comes as a result of the people around us. As a result, I’ve written articles on what to do when you’re not getting along with your boss, how a toxic stress environment affects your health, and how to manage work stress in general.
But, what do you do when you’re the one stressing everyone out? You might have come to this realization as a result of feedback from others, or insight that comes from self-reflection. Or, on the flipside, it could be a potential blind spot about which you’re blissfully unaware. Either way, it’s critical to do something about it. In the best case scenario, creating anxiety for others can limit your effectiveness in the workplace. The worst case scenario? It could potentially derail your career.
While stress-inducing behavior can come in a variety of forms, a common culprit I’ve come across in my career coaching others is one’s approach to time management. Although many people think that it’s only themselves that they’re affecting, the reality is, that how you choose to use your time can have a negative impact on the people around you.
Read on to see if you exhibit one of these four behaviors that could be unintentionally stressing out the people around you.
I once worked with someone I’ll call Mike, who fit this description. Mike placed a premium on efficiency and checking items off of his to-do list. He was an action-oriented driver who could be trusted to get things done quickly (though not always accurately). He was an avid multi-tasker who could have a phone conversation, write emails, and run statistical analyses simultaneously.
While Mike was great at getting things done, he also unwittingly stressed out the people around him. Whether it was as a result of his unnecessarily tight (and unrealistic) timelines, the quick pace of his speech that made it hard for others to keep up with him, or his impatience causing him to look ahead in decks while people were presenting, his behavior constantly put people on edge.
If you can see a lot of yourself in Mike, stop what you’re doing and take a deep breath! Recognize that if you are striving to maintain a high pace at all times, you might be putting others (and yourself) at risk for burnout. Yes, it’s important to strive for efficiency in execution. But, it’s also important to balance that with being present, slowing down to listen, and giving people enough time to produce high quality work.
Needing to be in all the details
Are you someone who likes to get into the details? Do you want to check over everything that others do to make sure that it meets your high standards? While you might just see this as having a commitment to quality, others are like to experience it as micro-management.
From a time management perspective, this approach likely expands your own workload, creating additional stress for yourself. At the same time, it can cause you to act as a bottle neck, slowing down the people around you, as they wait for your “okay” before being able to move on. A better approach? Work on your delegation skills and develop the people who work for you so that you can trust them to do what’s needed.
Creating last minute emergencies
Do you get your best ideas at the eleventh hour? Are you someone who gets energized during the last-minute push before a deadline? If this is your preferred work style, it might give you a rush of exhilaration to work under pressure. However, for a lot of the people around you, it would feel like unwelcomed stress.
I’ve worked with several clients who had this work style. Although they felt completely at ease putting in substantial work with limited time, their co-workers or direct reports often felt frazzled, worrying if they would finish everything that needed to be done. In addition, they often resented it if they had to work late or put their other responsibilities to the side to accommodate someone else’s procrastination.
If you’re prone to this style, do yourself (and the people around you) a favor by setting an earlier deadline for yourself – and agree upon it with others. By doing so, you’ll still have that bit of external motivation you’ll need to inspire you to get going – and you’ll be a lot less annoying to the people around you!
Contacting workers around the clock
Laptops and smartphones are beneficial in that they give you the flexibility to be able to work whenever and wherever you need to. However, they’re also a double-edged sword, because they give other people the ability to contact you whenever they want to. If you’re one of those people who constantly contacts your colleagues outside of regular work hours, you could be stressing them out – especially if you are expecting a prompt reply.
As I outline in this article, when some people are unable to fully disconnect from work, it can detract from their well-being by increasing stress and feelings of resentment. It also decreases their ability to recharge during their off hours. To avoid this, simply refrain from sending off-hours messages unless they are completely necessary. If you’re writing emails to get caught up with your work, you can save them to draft, or else schedule them to be sent at an appropriate time.
Homer Simpson said, “I think Smithers picked me because of my motivational skills. Everyone says they have to work a lot harder when I’m around.” Unlike Homer, you don’t want to be the person in the office who makes it harder for your colleagues to do their jobs. Avoid these irritating time management styles, so you can be a consistently welcome member of your team!
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