How to Handle a Stressful Workplace Experience

For many employees, work is the source of many stressors. Sometimes stress is brought on by the work itself, other times it might be co-workers, or it could stem from a specific client experience. Whatever it is that is bringing stress into the lives of employees can be handled appropriately.

How should I handle a stressful workplace experience? Perhaps the most useful tool in any stressful workplace experience is quality communication. Communication is often the best solution to any number of negative experiences. However, because of the variety of occurrences and situations that can cause stress, it can be important to know how to relieve stress in general. Many times we are unable to completely escape the stressor, especially if it is the work itself. By taking care of stress, you can more adequately handle the situation that causes it.

Stress is a part of human life. When stress hits the workplace, it can encourage employees to do better. Despite this, too much stress can cause a negative environment or any number of health problems. Understanding how employees should communicate is only the beginning of a happier workplace. Using communication properly can do great things for a business. Knowing other ways to decrease stress helps both employees and the company.

Communication Training

Communication is a powerful tool. In fact, there are numerous situations and negative experiences that could have been avoided with quality communication. However, being that we are all human, a stressful workplace experience can happen on occasion. The best way to handle those situations is by applying the communication that should have occurred in the first place.

Often times a stressful situation stems from a misunderstanding or not understanding how a coworker communicates. These can easily be avoided, but can also be solved with communication. Since everyone is different, it can be a process to understand how a person communicates. If a coworker is new to the office or if communication between two parties is rare, these occurrences are more likely to happen. Many businesses would benefit from training their employees on how to communicate best.

Communication training can be done internally, or a third party company can provide said training to employees. If conflict seems to arise often, it may be necessary to take the leap and pay for courses. Learning how to effectively communicate in a business setting can help individuals as well as the business as a whole.

Communicating well with others in the office will not only help to further relationships in the workplace but will prove to better the business. Employees that are engaged with one another can display their motivations, the development of skills, and create a more positive environment. Developing a culture in which employees are friendly will cultivate a team that wants the company to win.

With employees having better relationships and higher quality communication or interaction, levels of productivity will be on the rise as well. A company’s workforce will prove to be more creative and better at brainstorming. Working together will be more concise and cohesive. It can also shine a light on unutilized talent, as other employees will see the capabilities of others.

Because of the improved communication among coworkers, customers and/or clients will likely see a difference. The improvement in the business behind the scenes can often be seen from the outside. Additionally, communication from an employee to a client will be better as well. Understanding will be clearer, presentations will thrive, and any differences in opinion can be thoroughly discussed and dissected properly.

While managing stress is important to the workplace and employee health, managing situations that cause stress can be done best with communication skills. Encouraging employees to enhance their communication skills can be helpful, but providing communication training for the business can ensure that all employees have the same understanding of what communication should be.

Handling Specific Stressors

Each job has stressors that come with it. While many of these stressors are specific to the line of work, there are many that happen in the midst of all careers. Learning how to handle the most common stressors in the workplace might just be the information needed to keep stress at bay.

Many people stress because of conflict in the workplace. While it is always best to avoid conflict by not discussing important personal matters like religion or politics, sometimes this is not possible. If a conflict arises in the workplace, stress will only be made worse if left unresolved. Resolving any conflict begins with understanding our personal feelings on the matter. It is impossible to resolve anything if it has not been resolved internally first.

After internal understanding is accomplished, it is time to listen. Things might make sense to us in our heads, but it is important to try to understand where the other person is coming from. Do not listen just so that a reply can be formed, listen to learn. Be open to what a coworker is saying, rather than dismissing their thoughts immediately.

Be assertive in the reply offered. The entire conversation should not be aggressive, but clear and concise. Focus on “I,” rather than what the other person might be doing or thinking incorrectly. By emphasizing one’s own feelings, it is less likely that the coworker will feel attacked or go on the defensive. Then, it might be easier to find a solution that both parties can agree on. If there is no accepted solution, it might be necessary to agree to disagree and leave it at that. Further conflict will only increase stress.

Another stressor might be unclear policies. It is entirely possible for uncertainty to creep in and cause stress on employees with differing interpretations of the policies. The best way to handle this workplace stressor is to simply open the lines of communication with management on anything that seems unclear. Ask for clarification on issues before they become issues on their own. The use of email is a great way to communicate on policy and important aspects, as there is a paper trail that can help to clear up any future questions or debates.

Uncertainty in personal performance can also be a cause for stress. By having honest check-ins and what might be done to be considered for promotions, employees are more aware of what is expected of them and how they are performing. Rather than waiting for a year-end review, attempt to check-in as frequently as quarterly or more. This is another way of encouraging communication.

Communication in the workplace seems to be the key to numerous stressors. In fact, it goes to reason that most stressful workplace experiences can be solved by simply talking it out. Understanding the benefits of communication in the workplace can help employees to do better. Doing better also comes from taking care of stress in other areas of life.

Dealing with Stress

Learning how to manage stress can also help to lower stress levels in general. Managing stress can range from what you put in your body to how much energy you exert. While doing everything possible to reduce stress is ideal, even the smallest of changes in one’s life can make an impact.

One of the biggest impacts on stress is heavily related to the amount of sleep you get. While many people feel the need to cut back on sleep in order to get to everything they need to do, it can be massively detrimental to the body and mind. On average, an adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If less than 7 hours are spent sleeping during the night, stress levels can be elevated.

Oddly enough, however, stress can also disrupt sleep. Stress often causes the mind to race – thoughts running in a never-ending circle and preventing sleep from coming. While sleep is important to decreasing stress levels, it is also important to utilize other stress-reducing tips so that quality sleep is possible.

Sleep can be easier at night if exercise is performed during the day. Physical activity also lowers stress, so this is a win-win. Exercise releases hormones in the body that helps to keep stress from elevating. It might be easiest for someone with long hours to workout before work or possibly using a break for a 20-minute walk. If that walk happens to be in the sunlight, stress will decrease even more, as light tends to help lower stress levels as well.

Relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, a massage, or deep breathing are great ways to de-stress if time is limited. By using a few minutes each day to sit still and breathe, stress levels will decline, and understanding of what is causing the stress can be made more apparent. By understanding the cause, it is more likely that improvements can be made.

Despite what many seem to think, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol do not relieve stress. These items do the opposite. Drink water more, as not only does it help to lower stress levels, but it is, in fact, more energizing than coffee! Nicotine only serves to make people more jittery and stressed out. Alcohol has sugars that increase stress as well. Cutting out these bad habits and replacing them with a healthy diet is a great way to assist in the journey to a stress-free life.

If stress stems from a to-do list that seems too difficult to tackle, learn how to manage time better, prioritize and utilize a calendar to determine the best course of action in accomplishing everything that needs doing. Delegate if possible. Leave some time in the day for those activities that just didn’t get quite done. Get rid of distractions like social media or texting while at work. Doing these things can help to manage each task individually, leading to less stress.

Knowing what is expected is an additional way to reduce stress in the workplace. Keep a detailed bulleted list of the job description visible so that additional duties do not distract from the true expectations of the job. If other tasks arise, discuss options with a supervisor. Talking to someone that understands how much is being taken on can be a help in lessening the load.

By being proactive about managing stress, it can be much easier to handle a stressful workplace experience. The tips above are just a handful of the options that one might take to decrease stress levels or prevent those levels from rising to begin with. If a stressful situation is unavoidable, there are ways of managing those as well.

If stress is not managed, employees may face a variety of health concerns. Some of the most common health problems include migraines or headaches, chest pain, upset stomach, or sleep apnea. Stress can also cause anxiety and depression, irritability, and a feeling of being overwhelmed. A stressed employee may also lack motivation, become less social, or overeat.

Many of the health issues caused by stress can develop into something more serious. Because of this, it is important that learning how to manage stress is made a priority. Along with communication training, it may be ideal for companies to offer training on stress management.


No one wants to encounter a stressful workplace experience, but in reality, it does happen. While stress is a normal occurrence for people, too much stress can cause a variety of issues mentally, physically, and emotionally. If a negative situation arises, know that communication is likely the answer to the problem. By communicating through the issue, employees can feel as though they are being understood.

Listening and understanding what a coworker is saying is a key aspect of getting through the hard situation in a positive manner. It is not always possible to agree on everything, and how boring the world would be if we did, but it is possible to communicate with one another respectfully and find a way to get past the problems. Doing so is not only good for the employees involved but can mean good things for the business. Communication is always key.

Related Questions

Can meditation help my business?

Meditation has a number of positive impacts on a person’s life. In business, meditation can decrease stress, improve focus, refine creativity, and enhance the decision-making process. If done properly, meditation can help businesses of all types.

How should I ask for a raise?

Communicating the desire for a raise is often a subject that employees are uncomfortable with. By defining specific goals to a supervisor and achieving them, the idea of a raise will be a natural progression. It will then be more comfortable to inform your supervisor why a raise is deserved.

Will an onsite gym encourage productivity?

Given that physical activity is a known solution for stress, providing employees with a gym can help improve productivity. It can allow workers to get a full workout in on their lunch break, rather than a short walk. Because of this, employees will be healthier and less likely to need sick days.

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