Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
version 5, draft 5

How to Talk to Your Boss About Stress

We have all experienced stress. Stress is a natural reaction which prepares us to act. You may have stressed out over your first driving test for example. This is your body’s way of performing under pressure. 

In the career world, it’s possible to endure stress on a daily basis. If you’re someone who is under a lot of stress, you know how it can affect your day-to-day life. There’s various reasons that someone may be stressed out; one work environment will differ from the next. 

If you are feeling stressed at work, focus on the cause. What is making you feel this way? Is it an easy fix? Instead of dreading your workday, approach your boss. If you are constantly feeling the weight of stress, you need to take action. Don’t be shy, speak to your boss about the stress you’re experiencing. 

Reasons to Eliminate Stress

Your stress levels may be creating tension in the workplace and within your home environment. The following are three reasons that stress should be managed effectively:

  • Weakened Immune System: If you are under high levels of stress for a prolonged period, you begin to strain your immune system. Some stress is normal, but it should not be overwhelming and constant. When we’re stressed, our hormones become imbalanced and in turn affects our organs. If your immune system is low, you cannot effectively combat disease. If you do not get your stress in check, you will be taking more sick days than you’d like to.
  • Hinders Sleep Patterns: Stress-related hormones inhibit your ability to sleep, creating insomnia for some. Sleep is such a vital aspect of our overall health. If you’re not getting the right amount of sleep, you will not be able to concentrate at work. Lack of sleep will also increase anxiety and unwanted emotions.
  • Reduces Social Interactions: If you’re extremely stressed out in the workplace, one of two things may happen: (1) you may attract other like-minded individuals who are prone to high levels of stress. This will negatively affect your overall work environment, or (2) co-workers will simply avoid you. If you are displaying high levels of stress, others may simply remove themselves from that environment.

Most Common Types of Work-Related Stress

There may be some people you know that are extremely stressed. Their work may seem to be diminishing their spirit, health, and productivity. Perhaps that person is you. The following are the most commons reasons why people are stressed out over work:

  • Overworked: Generally people work from the moment they arrive until the moment they leave. The tasks involved are generally on someone else’s schedule, providing little freedom. Jobs that are high demand and low control often create extreme levels of stress. We’re working more than ever, putting in more time at work than any other activity.
  • Frustration: There are many people that work hard, yet they feel as though they’re not getting compensated for the work they do. You may have delivered time and time again, yet there has not been a promotion or raise implemented. Individuals who thrive on approval often feel stressed regarding this type of work environment. There is an imbalance in effort and reward, creating high levels of stress.
  • You Feel Like a Doormat: Working with various customers can be extremely challenging. The demands are high and it’s not uncommon to experience verbal abuse. Within your position, you’re required to bite your tongue, stay calm, and act professional (even if the customer is clearly in the wrong). Your internal state conflicts with the way you’re expected to behave. This can create tremendous amounts of stress.
  • Deadlines: It may feel as though your workload is increasing, while your deadlines are shrinking. Deadlines are a common stressor, making individuals feel as though they’re racing against the clock. When this is an ongoing experience, stress levels do not subside.

I’m Stressed, How Do I Approach My Boss?

If you’re feeling incredibly stressed, you need to speak to your boss. How can you expect improvements to be made when you do not do anything about it?

  1. Approach your boss and let them know that you’d like to speak to them. Let them choose a time that works for them. You do not want them to be distracted by their current task, you need to have their focus on you and your concerns. If they do not set a time, kindly remind them. If they keep putting it off, write them a thorough email. Explain to them that you’d appreciate a response after they have read its content. This can also be a great option for timid individuals, or those who believe speaking about their concerns will create high levels of emotion. This allows you to get everything out in a controlled, calm setting.
  2. Once you have a meeting in place, prepare yourself. You can have a few details written down so that your boss sees this is something of importance to you. Be direct with them, specifically targeting the areas that are creating high levels of stress. Keep the meeting short, you do not want to get off topic. Simply state the reasons that you’re unhappy and feeling stressed.
  3. When speaking to your boss give examples. Don’t just say, “I’m stressed, I need things to change.” Be specific, and provide specific instances when your stress levels increase. Maybe you’re the only one who has been taking work home, or you’re the only one that has been asked to work nights. Let them know the specific areas that are creating issues for you.
  4. Providing alternatives is generally received well. Perhaps you have raised awareness, now it’s time to offer ideas. You can offer alternatives, providing a solution that works for everyone. If deadlines are creating high levels of stress, ask if any deadlines can be extended. Your boss may not be aware that you are feeling this way, sometimes all it takes is a little bit of communication. You may also see if there’s anyone that can add support. Perhaps you have taken on extra work since the company cut back. See who else is available, sharing the workload.

Other Tips to Reduce Stress Levels

If you’ve ran out of options, here are some additional tips to help you decrease stress levels:

  • Consider a Change: If your career is making you miserable, it may be time to consider change. You are in control of your future and your own personal life. If you are not being treated with the respect you deserve, you can look for a new position within a new location. If it is the type of work, you may need to explore new possibilities.
  • Eat Healthy: Maintaining a nutrient-rich diet is so vital. If you are getting the proper nutrients you need, your body is able to adapt more easily. The proper nutrient-dense choices can significantly improve your health and your overall mental state.
  • Exercise: Allowing your body to be active has a positive effect on your stress levels. Take a nice walk on your lunch break, or go to the gym with friends after work. You could ride your bike to work a few times a week; whatever gets you active and fit. This is a great stress reliever, while improving your overall health.

If you are feeling highly stressed, remember that you’re in control. You need to speak with your boss, coming up with practical solutions. If nothing is done, you may need to make some changes in your life. Although a career change can be scary, you cannot continually live under mass amounts of stress. 

Most of the time, all it takes is a meeting with your boss. As mentioned, many bosses don’t even know there’s an issue. They’re expecting you to come to them with your concerns and that is exactly what you should do. Do not shy away from your high levels of stress. One talk may dramatically improve your work environment. 

Photo credit: Kugel


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