So you’ve identified that you’re the source of the office stress bug. Congratulations! Admitting you have a problem is the first step to overcoming it. While all people handle work deadlines, office politics, and a stressful environment differently, there’s no disputing that one person’s negativity can infect seven other people in direct proximity. If you don’t want to be that person, we have a few tips on how to turn it around, overcome the label you’ve already been given, and become the coworker that everyone wants to work with.
It’s time to face it head on, grown up style.
Time out. When you start to feel overwhelmed or stressed take an adult time-out. We hated these as children, but they might be more beneficial than we thought. Think of it as hitting the pause button so you have some breathing room to figure out how you are going to handle a difficult situation. You can silently freak out, or you can write it all down and set timelines to break it up so it won’t seem so huge.
Shut up. If you are already passed the point of remaining calm and the people around you are starting to feel the effects of your stress, now is the time to listen more than talk, you don’t want to cause further drama. Allow others to voice opinions on helping the situation and don’t take it personally.
Be sorry. If you are already too far in, it’s time for damage control. Because you couldn’t help yourself, the stress monster has taken over the whole office and no one is talking to you. The only thing you can do is apologize, sincerely. It may seem like such a small thing for all the tension you have caused, but you might be surprised how far an honest “I know I’ve been hard to work with and I’m going to change that, I’m very sorry” will go.
Show, don’t tell. The damage control doesn’t end there; you still need to make it up to your coworkers and show them it won’t happen again. Actions speak louder than words. Instead of offering to take on the next big project as lead (which puts more on your plate and exacerbates your stress), offer your help as a teammate. Ask for advice and their opinion on work you are doing. If you don’t like what you hear, remember to remain professional at all times and don’t fuel the fire.
Respect boundaries. Yours and theirs! Only take on what you can handle, resolve to stop complaining to others (who stopped listening to you a long time ago), and let your boss or supervisor help you set more reasonable goals. Be conscious of how your behavior at work might impact your coworkers and show them the side of you that is cool, calm and collected.
Don’t expect miracles. Depending on how long you’ve been the office stress monster, it could be months before you can win the respect of your coworkers again. Don’t push too hard or come on too strong. Give them time to see the “new you” and don’t become petulant if you still have coworkers who avoid you. Focus on your own work and the rest will follow in time.
Tension in the workplace can be toxic and it’s no fun to realize that you’re the cause. If you have had everyone walking on eggshells around you, now is the time to whip out that self-deprecating sense of humor you’ve been hiding, be vulnerable, trust other people, and let them come around on their own. At the very least, you can resolve NOT to be the cause of stress—even if they continue to avoid you. Move on, for their health and for yours!