According to researchers Howard S. Freeman and Ronald E. Riggio, our brains mirror the emotions of others. It’s an evolutionary tactic: if someone’s scared, you should be, too. But when you’re packed into an office or at a jobsite with the same people every day, the stress of others can transfer to you, even if you’re not particularly stressed.
Much like secondhand smoke, secondhand stress can create a toxic environment. If you find yourself influenced by other people’s stress in the workplace, here are some tactics you can use to help you cope:
Are you contributing to the stress? It’s only natural to pick up on social cues and reflect behavior. That’s how societies work. But if you’re adopting negative stances against the work, the clients, or management just to fit in, you could be doing yourself more harm than you realize.
Making sure you don’t spread the stress contagion is step one to getting a handle on it. It’s also important to stay healthy. Eating well, getting enough sleep, and doing things you enjoy are essential to not becoming a walking ball of stress yourself.
Cut It Off at the Source
If you find yourself affected by undue stress at work, look around to see if someone else’s behavior is driving you.
Counteract a co-worker who constantly offloads stress on you by pointing out silver-linings in each situation: “Yeah, Gary, that is a ridiculous deadline, but it’s great they believe you’re a fast worker.” Hopefully, they’ll see you’re only going to deflect their stress instead of absorb it.
If the co-worker is persistent, you may need to sit them down and tell them how their constant complaining is affecting you. Or you may want to make a superior aware of the stress you feel as a result of a co-worker.
Time for a New Job
A little secondhand stress at work is expected. If it’s a constant thing, it may be baked into the company culture. A toxic environment is unsustainable for your sanity, and it’s very hard to turn a culture around. You can air your grievances and try to affect change if you love everything else about this job. But chances are, your best bet is to seek a better work culture.
That’s where Nordstrom Williams can help. If it’s time for you to find a less stressful job, contact us today!