Tight deadlines and demanding customers aren't the only sources of workplace stress. A difficult co-worker can also wreak havoc on your health. Sure, it's perfectly normal to experience some stress at work. But an overbearing boss, ill-intentioned manager or nagging co-worker can have a significant impact on your physical and emotional being.
Here's how to recognize the problem and what to do about it:
Recognize the problem
The first step to dealing with a difficult co-worker is recognizing the signs that you're under too much stress. These include:
- Problems concentrating
- Impatience, quickness to argue or short temper
- Difficulty sleeping
- Upset stomach
- Job dissatisfaction and low morale
- Poor job performance
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize the stress-inducing impact of a co-worker's behaviour.
What to do about it
"You're fired!" If only you could scream that out the next time a co-worker gets you worked up. Since you're probably not in a position to do so, or have the grounds if you are, then taking positive steps to reduce your stress is your best option:
- Laugh — Rather than let that meddling manager get a rise out of you, share a joke with a friend or co-worker and try to see the humour in your predicament. A good chuckle is one of the best ways to reduce stress and put things in perspective.
- Breathe — Before you react to your co-worker's snarky remark, take a good, long breath. Those few extra seconds will help you better understand your situation and adjust your attitude.
- Agree to disagree — You don't have to see eye-to-eye with someone to work side-by-side. Rather, opposing views can help reshape your outlook on professional matters, and teach you how to compromise.
- Focus on your business — You can't always control a gossipmonger but you can get a better handle on your own situation. Unreturned phone calls and emails, and a messy desk only exacerbate feelings of workplace stress. Spend the first 10 minutes of every workday organizing your area and setting priorities.
- Don't be bullied — Workplace bullies can abuse co-workers verbally, physically and even online. If you're the target of one, then don't put up; speak up. Let the bully know their behaviour is unacceptable and that you'll take the matter to a higher authority (like human resources) if necessary. By nipping the problem in the bud, you can stop the abuse from getting worse, and avoid getting carried away with your emotions and saying something you'll regret later.
- Get it in writing — Encourage your employer to put a workplace stress prevention policy in place that includes guidelines for resolving issues between co-workers. If you encounter resistance, explain to your boss that stress is an occupational safety hazard that can impact the health and safety of your team.
- Speak to human resources — Check with HR to see if there are any employee programs that can help you with stress.
No matter how bad things get, remember that there's no need to suffer in silence. You can do something — and get help if you need it.