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10 Signs You Are Under Too Much Pressure at Work

10 Signs You Are Under Too Much Pressure at Work

Workplace stress can sometimes go undetected, because you’re so busy trying to keep on top of tasks that you’ve no time to stop and look at the impact of work pressure and whether or not you’re coping with it. This article can help you track your stress levels. If you’re suffering from a lot of symptoms, consider making changes so you can avoid complete burnout.

1. Unexplained Aches and Pains

Working in an uncomfortable chair or at a desk that’s the wrong height can cause your body to become achy. But if you’re suffering from aches and pains that can’t be explained by poor ergonomics, it may be that you’re under too much pressure. According to Dr Gabor Mate, author of When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress, stress causes many more physical symptoms than we realize. Unexplained pain can be a signal from the body to alert you to the fact that you’re over-taxing yourself.

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2. Altered Appetite

If you often skip lunch because you don’t feel hungry, that could be a sign that you’re feeling the strain. When you’re having to deal with other pressures, your priorities change and eating may feel less important to your body than dealing with current work stressors. Alternatively, if you’re stuffing your face in the work canteen every day, you may be comfort eating to deal with stress. Which you do depends on your personality, but a change in appetite is a common sign of stress.

3. Sleep Struggles

If you’re struggling to get into work on time, because either you overslept or are over-tired from lying awake all night, then you may be under too much pressure at work. Changes in sleep patterns are another of those things that can go to either extreme. Your body may feel it needs more rest to gather energy to deal with stressors or you may be kept awake by your worry thoughts. It will depend on the personality and your situation, but a different sleep pattern can indicate you’re under too much pressure.

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4. Feeling Lonely

Your office may be full of your colleagues as usual, and yet you feel like the loneliest person in the world. Stress can make you feel isolated and cut off from other people, especially if you’re the sort of person who takes pressure personally. It’s as if stressors are following you like a little black cloud and no-one else could possibly understand how you feel. John Cacioppo, a professor of psychology, and author of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, points out that feeling unrewarded can lead to feelings of loneliness. Perhaps, when you’re under pressure, the imbalance between the amount of effort you put into work and the amount of reward you feel to get back causes workplace loneliness.

5. Constant Colds

When your body is under too much pressure, your immune system can become compromised. When all your resources need to go towards sorting out things at work, the body does not have enough energy left to protect itself from illness. If you seem to always have the sniffles lately, when you’re usually in good health, take a look at your workload and see if you’re doing too much.

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6. Getting Sweaty

Are you constantly needing to ‘freshen up’ at work because you’re feeling a bit sweaty? Sweating a lot when the temperature doesn’t warrant it can show that you’re suffering from stress. The reason why work pressure may cause you to sweat is that external stressors can activate the ‘fight or flight’ response in the body. This causes a surge of adrenaline, which, in turn, makes you sweat. Researchers are still not clear on why this is, but seem to be leaning towards the idea that the smell produced by sweat could be a signal to others that there is danger around. A study carried out by Stony Brook University and published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience in 2011, revealed that found that people who were exposed to another person’s stress sweat became more alert.

7. Procrastinating

Believe it or not, procrastination is more often a sign of anxiety than it is of laziness. Anyone who has seen a rabbit caught in headlights knows the rabbit is not simply not bothering to move. As well as ‘fight or flight’, extreme pressure can also cause a ‘freeze response’, which means you simply don’t know exactly what to do next, so staying still seems like the most sensible option. If you’re finding that you have lots of tasks at work but can’t seem to start any, you may be ‘freezing’ under too much pressure.

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8. Being Snappy

If you have an uncharacteristically short fuse, you’re probably suffering from too much pressure. Agitation can build up inside without us realizing, and suddenly we find we’ve bitten the head off a co-worker for no real reason. If you look back at your day, you’ll probably notice how the pressure has been building from one stressor to the next, like a pressure cooker waiting to explode.

9. Anxious Thoughts

There are several categories of anxious thoughts that seem to arise when we’re stressed out. These can range from ‘worst scenario thinking’, like presuming you’ll lose your job if you don’t get a work report right, to ‘mind reading’, eg. automatically assuming that your boss will hate your latest presentation even though you have no real evidence. If you look at your anxious thoughts and they seem really unrealistic, they are probably a response to extreme pressure at work.

10. Light-headedness

Although dizziness can be caused by all sorts of things, it is often an overlooked symptom of workplace stress. If you think about the way the body works, when you’re stressed out, the fight or flight response causes us to breathe more shallowly, and our heart to speed up, preparing us to run away or enter combat. Breathing too quickly causes the arteries to contract, so less blood reaches the brain, and this can cause a feeling of light-headedness. If you’re constantly having to sit down at work or grab onto the photocopier because you’re feeling dizzy, this could be a sign of workplace stress.

NB. Before putting any of these symptoms purely down to stress, note that other illnesses can sometimes share these symptoms. While you are looking at ways of managing pressure better, please also get a physical health check.

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Published on November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

Reference

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