How to Deal With Workplace Stress of Coworkers

Be patient and compassionate; your coworker may be dealing with other serious issues.

Be patient and compassionate; your coworker may be dealing with other serious issues.

You have a job you like, but the coworkers are a total drag. If the people you work with are a major source of stress on the job, they could be bringing down the whole office; reducing productivity, destroying the vibe, and generally making things way more difficult than they need to be. While you may not be able to change them, there are some things you can do to make your part in the situation a bit better.

Tune it out. If possible, ask your boss if you can move desks or rearrange the office to make it easier for you to get your work done without having to interact with the stress-cases. If that's not an option, see if it's possible for you to use headphones during the day, or to play light, pleasant music in your part of the office. You may also be able to get your boss to allow you to work from home or telecommute part-time.

Change the way you communicate. Sometimes, even just talking to the crabby person at your office can set you off. If you have to interact with this person as part of your daily duties, do your communicating over email or instant messaging, where that person's ugly tone won't be as easy to pick out. Likewise, if you or your coworker is in a better mood during a certain part of the day, choose that time to talk to your stressed-out co-worker, advises workplace consultant Donna Marie on her website.

Find an ally. If there's a stress case in your office, chances are you're not the only one who sees it and doesn't like it. During off-hours, spend some time sounding off with that person, and look for ways you can improve the situation together, or improve each others' spirits. Send each other a funny cartoon each day, or create a signal to let the other person know when you need help coping with the stressed-out coworkers.

Practice yoga, meditation or get exercise outside of work, to help you cope with stress on the job. Having some type of outlet outside work can help you keep work at work, and help you fully enjoy the times when you are not at work.

Talk with your coworkers about how their attitudes are making you feel. Focus on actions instead of labels, advises Marina London of the Employee Assistance Professionals Association in an article in the "The Wall Street Journal." Tell your coworkers that you've observed them acting a certain way, and let them know you're concerned about their well-being. For example, instead of saying, "I think you're depressed," say "I've noticed you've been sad and angry." If the coworker seems open to discussing the subject further, provide suggestions for resources such as counseling services or your employee assistance program.

Discuss the issue with your boss -- but do it carefully. Avoid placing blame or doing the boss's job of creating solutions -- state the problem and ask for help in solving it. If you have a workplace ally, ask her to join in on the meeting, so your boss will understand that the problem goes beyond just person-to-person conflict.

Tip

  • You may also suggest to your boss that your entire office participate in some type of regular exercise activity, such as a lunchtime walk or running group; this could help those stress cases get the added endorphins they may need to cope with their own stress.
 

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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