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If you have a stressful job, how do you manage?

(4 Posts)
snickersnack Tue 20-Oct-09 15:57:36

I have a job that, for the most part, I really enjoy (or used to enjoy) – it’s interesting, challenging and in an area that I am passionate about. I work four days a week in theory. In practise, my day off is usually a mixture of trying to juggle children, housework, and work.

In the last few months, it’s become incredibly stressful – a variety of reasons, primarily because we are short staffed, and the people we do have on the team don’t have the skills they need to do the job effectively (not their fault – they are all great and hard working, it’s just that the current projects we’re working on are outside their comfort zone). It’s client based, so we’re very much at the mercy of what they want and expect, so can be quite unpredictable. Lots of conference calls scheduled for 7pm (when I’m meant to be doing bedtime), travelling overseas, short deadlines etc.

I manage a team of 12, and report in to my boss who is the Chief Executive. I like him a lot, I’ve always found him very reasonable, and he is aware that things are difficult at the moment.

I am finding the current work situation is affecting everything else – my sleeping (am waking at 4 and lying awake worrying), my relationships with dh and the dcs, as I am either working, or snappy and distracted, and my ability to do anything else effectively (keep the house running smoothly, help dd with her homework, talk to my parents, see my friends etc etc). I should say that dh is terrific, I have no complaints at all there, and we also have extremely good child care, which makes a difference. But I feel as if I’m cracking up under the pressure, and everything is suffering – I’m either working or thinking about work.

I think this is mostly my problem, rather than my company’s problem – they recognise things aren’t sustainable and need to change and are trying to recruit new staff and so on. But that takes time. I could resign, in theory, but in reality I feel a lot of loyalty to my boss and to the team, and to the clients I’m working with, and me going would put them in an incredibly difficult position. We don’t need the money my job brings in – it isn’t that well paid, particularly when you factor in child care – so that’s not the problem.

I suppose I’m really interested in some coping strategies from other people in this position. How do you manage if you find yourself in a similar position? Is there anything practical I can do that will make a difference? Even just hearing from other people in the same position would be helpful.

ThingumyandBob Tue 20-Oct-09 17:07:09

So not the answer you are after…but, putting yourself first and your boss second, have you thought what life would be like if you did resign and do something more relaxed, or even work for yourself? Just a thought, but it sounds a bit like your boss is taking advantage of your good nature and loyalty... I mean not that he might not be doing it consciously, he might just be battling through the situation that he is in and not realise what he is doing.

I was in a similar position and the way I saw through it was to take charge and tell my boss what I needed so that I was not spread too thin over too many areas. If the company are looking to take on new staff then the budget must be there so could they not let you employ a temp to be your assistant? (I’ve had some fantastic temps work for me who have been amazing and picked things up very quickly, there’s no career ego in the way so they don’t mind picking up lunch for you or dry cleaning or generally helping out, plus I always found the best ones were often not available to interview because they were in demand, so I didn’t even have to do that bit, the agency sent them along on the basis that if they didn’t fit they didn’t come back the next day) Could your company employ the services of a trainer to train the up the team? The only short term solution that I did adopt was diarising all jobs before I went home at night (I happened to prefer paper based for the nature of my job) then shutting the diary and forgetting about everything until the morning…not so easy if you have teleconferences at bedtime, so you might have to tell you boss that you can only do 1 per week or 2 per week max, and that on those weeks you will choose 1 day in that week when you will be in at 11.30am (that way you can spend the morning catching up on house work). Or they give you a pay rise so you can afford a cleaner, weekly Ocardo deliveries and the odd weekend away here and there to look forward to help it all seem worthwhile and to make life run a bit more smoothly. I read your post and thought you should be on a high wage, I surprised that you are not already…

BlingLoving Tue 20-Oct-09 17:20:06

If you love your job, your colleagues and clients, then I'd say that you are taking the right approach to try and find coping techniques (obviously, this doesn't apply if you hate it, but that's not the sense I get - I get the impression that it's just all a bit overwhelming at the moment).

It also sounds like your boss is reasonable and would like you to have things easier so he's not going to automatically shoot down any suggestions from you?

So, can you explore a few things to see what works for you? Here are some initial ideas:

1. Yes, sometimes you are the only person who can do something, or respond, but can the team take more time and effort deciding when to come to you? Is there someone who can act as gatekeeper? Or perhaps implement daily (even twice daily) catch up chats (very very quick) to flag key things so that you're all working together to make sure those that require everyone's presence/ your involvement don't come as a surprise

2. If there are late conference calls is this becase o f time differences? In which case, can you suggest tha these happen even later - say 8 pm - but that 6- 8 (or whatever) are absolute "no go" zones for you and that conference calls etc have to be scheduled at different times. If you take an approach like this, then of course, you have to ensure the "No go" time is sufficiently long to feel like you are benefiting from the later conference calls.

3. What flexibility is there in terms of time? Eg, can you come in later? Leave earlier? Work from home? All of these, depending on your personality and your job could have an impact.

On a more personal level, think about what you can do to make things easier for yourself. It seems counter intuitive but can you carve out time for "you" time - even if it's at the office. eg, go to the gyn for an hour during the working day or somethign similar. Also, if your boss understands the problem but can't fix it as quick as he'd like, is he willing to help you with other problems? eg a temp who's hired to do "menial" tasks like collect lunch, organise dry cleaning, book all cabs/travel, pay bills, both for the office AND for you all as individuals? Obviously, this will depend on the type of organisation etc, but if he can't help you with the workload, perhaps he can help you (and the rest of the team ) with your more personal items?

snickersnack Wed 21-Oct-09 09:42:43

Thank you – I do feel calmer already! I think you both have made some very sensible suggestions.

Thingumyandbob – you’re right, I could just resign. But I have a three month notice period, so it wouldn’t be a quick fix, and dh’s job isn’t hugely secure so it would be a bit reckless to give up right now. I think my boss does take advantage – not consciously, as that’s not his style, but he definitely just assumes that I will cope and it will all be fine. I have on one occasion (a while ago) thrown my hands up and said I can’t do this – he did take some steps to manage the situation, but I hate admitting I can’t cope (except on MN!).

The idea you both had of getting an assistant is a good one – we have an office manager/PA to the Chief Exec. I think she isn’t that overworked (in comparison to everyone else) so perhaps that might be an answer – I do occasionally ask her to go to the post office, but maybe there are other things she could do. Training the team – that could definitely help, although it’s more about experience. The problem is that what we do is largely about client relationships, so in situations where I am in charge of that relationship (like now) it’s hard to delegate effectively. But fired up by your suggestions I have convened a meeting this morning to discuss the project that’s causing particular problems, and will parcel out specific jobs so that the workload, if not the stress, is alleviated.

I don’t think my post did justice to the amount of flexibility I have – if I want to come in later or leave earlier, that’s up to me. And in truth, when things were calmer, I did. Right now, there’s so much to do that I just don’t have time. And although I complained about my salary, our financial situation is not that bad (assuming dh keeps his job!) – there isn’t much left over from my salary after child care, but between us we earn enough to pay for a cleaner once a week, etc. A weekend away would do us both the power of good, but depressingly the diary is full between now and Christmas!

I think I just have to get better at leaving my work worries in the office. There’s no point worrying about it when I’m not there – and actually it’s counterproductive because it makes me less effective when I am at work. I’m going to try deep breathing, and walking more, and see where that gets me.

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