Stress expression at work can be positive and productive
Determine your biggest source of work stress
Consider your supervisor's perspective
Come up with a solution that benefits you and your boss
Schedule a meeting, and plan the words you'll use to express your emotions
Give your boss time to consider your request
Feeling Overloaded at Work? You're Not Alone
You're doing your best to balance work, home and family. You may be feeling added pressure because work and home are now the same place. Or maybe you'd like to work from home, but workplace culture dictates a daily trip to the office. Combine that with the new normal of the COVID-19 pandemic, and all that stress is enough to make some people start surfing the internet in search of greener pastures. Or at least, greener offices.
But what if you could avoid the additional stress of a job hunt and get some relief right where you are, in your current position? Some of your work stress can likely be alleviated by having a positive and productive conversation with your supervisor. Here's how to approach that talk, step-by-step:
Determine Your Biggest Source of Stress
For some, the workload is too heavy. For others, boredom creates stress. What's bugging you the most? Is it your long commute to the office or the fact that you're now working from home—in the laundry closet while the dryer runs? If you're uncertain what your supervisor's priorities are, that can be stressful, too. And of course, low pay and lack of opportunity for career advancement can make a person feel stuck. For now, get clear on the single largest stressor that you're willing and ready to discuss with your boss.
Most people feel more comfortable keeping things the way they are, and that includes bosses. If something seems to be working well, why change it? Your boss may not realize things aren't going as smoothly as they could be going for you. How will changing your biggest work stressor affect your boss and your coworkers? If they'll experience stress when things change, you'll need to get creative.
Come Up With a Mutually Beneficial Solution
Let's say you want to work from home instead of commuting an hour each way every day. You've got a spare room and you can set it up as an office. Your roommates are out during the day, so you'll have peace and quiet to get your work done. Sounds perfect!
But what is your boss going to get out of this new situation? They may think, "I really like to see my employees every day, and I don't want to lose out on that." You'll have to sell your boss on how this work-from-home schedule benefits them, the company and the bottom line. Will you be more productive? Can your company use your office for another purpose? If you don't get some relief, will you be forced to look for another position? This could cost the company in terms of hiring and training a new employee. These are things you can communicate to your supervisor.
Schedule a Conversation
If you pass by your boss in the break room and say, "Hey, I want to start working from home on Monday," your boss is likely to feel caught off guard and they may not give your request serious consideration. Instead, message your supervisor and ask for a meeting at a time when you expect your boss to be most relaxed and receptive to your ideas.
Stress expression and productivity are closely tied, but your boss may be more comfortable talking about productivity than their employees' feelings. Try sending a message like this: "Hi Boss, I'm hoping we can schedule a time to talk. I have a concern about my productivity, as well as a potential solution. I'm hoping you can help. Thanks!"
Learning how to express your feelings calmly takes practice. Ask a friend to help you rehearse your choice of words ahead of time. You don't want your boss to feel attacked. You want them to feel like you're asking for their help. More than that, you want them to feel moved to give you the help you need.
Give Your Boss a Little Time, Then Follow Up
You may have been thinking about this source of stress for months, but your boss probably has not. They have other things to worry about, and for them, this may be a brand-new problem. So, give your boss a little time to consider your proposed solution. Ask, "I know this may be a surprise to you, but it's really weighing on me. Can you get back to me about this by next Friday?"
If your boss doesn't get back to you by the agreed-upon time, send a friendly message: "Hey, Boss, just checking in. Have you come to a decision about changing my work schedule?"
The Bottom Line
If you're experiencing stress, it may be hurting your health and potentially your productivity level at home and at work. Most likely, your boss is unaware of your stress level, but you can take steps to speak to them about just how much stress you're experiencing and what solutions you think will work best for both of you.
Schedule a conversation with your supervisor. Talk to them about your concerns, and more importantly, bring them a proposed solution (or two) that gives you—as well as your boss, coworkers and company—what you need. When you know how to express emotions with an eye on your ultimate goal of changing your situation for the better, everybody wins.
Lynn is a Registered Dietitian (R.D.) and is a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team at Pharmavite. She has over 20 years of experience in integrative and functional nutrition and has given lectures to health professionals and consumers on nutrition, dietary supplements and related health issues. Lynn frequently conducts employee trainings on various nutrition topics in addition to educating retail partners on vitamins, minerals and supplements. Lynn has previous clinical dietitian expertise in both acute and long-term care, as well as nutrition counseling for weight management, diabetes, and sports nutrition. Lynn earned a bachelor’s of science in Nutrition with a minor in Kinesiology/Exercise Science from The Pennsylvania State University. She earned a M.S. degree in Human Nutrition from Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Lynn is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists, Dietitians in Functional Medicine, and holds a certification in Integrative and Functional Nutrition through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.