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Old 09-05-2013, 08:21 PM   #21
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Well, that's one I forgot. Alcohol. You'd think an Irishman like me would remember that. Probably not a good option during the workday for most of us, though.

What an interesting boss you had.
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Old 09-05-2013, 09:49 PM   #22
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Oh, and I thought of another one that helps me:

Not being a "nice guy." I can get into saying Yes to people when I want to say No, hiding my real feelings, trying to please the boss, bending over backwards to accomodate referral sources, etc. I find it very helpful to not care so much what other people think -- to just honor my feelings and speak my mind.

I have to be somewhat politic and careful, because I don't want to shoot myself in the foot. But in general, being honest about how I'm feeling, setting boundaries, and saying No is a big stress-reducer for me. Whenever I get into my nice guy act, trying to seek approval or bend myself into twisty shapes in order to avoid disapproval, I stress myself out.
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Old 09-05-2013, 11:17 PM   #23
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This is too deep a hole. Please stop digging.

Quote:
I was not discounting the OP's sentiments, but "how do you ensure your that your job does not KILL you?" makes an extreme statement, which colors the discussion, also see below. Again, consider relative to members of the military, police, fire, etc. Or how would you like to be a citizen in Egypt, Syria or Afghanistan these days?
I don't think anyone was suggesting that a "toxic" office work environment was the same physical danger as police, firefighter, soldier or other truly hazardous occupations. But to suggest that no matter how terribly we are treated by upper management, or whatever management, that as long as we are not as bad off as citizens in failed states or active war zones, then we shouldn't worry because we are doing well by comparison seems to be missing the point (and possibly point of view) from the workers who get to take the abuse meted out from above.
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Old 09-05-2013, 11:37 PM   #24
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It's okay, let's move on. I get the feeling he's never experienced it, can't empathize, and isn't aware of the literature, so he dismisses the concerns as hyperbole. Oh well. You can't expect everyone to understand.

Moving on...

I like to take a short walk during the workday, if I can. There is a little semi-wooded area not too far away, and it's nice to stretch my legs and breathe in a little, as I stroll over there. I haven't been able to do that lately, because it's been so hot outside, but when it cools off, you can often find me taking a walk over there. Walking in nature is a great stress relief.

Oh, and looking at my paycheck helps, too. Whenever it arrives in the mailbox, I always go, "Oh yeah, that's why I do it." I'm being a little facetious here -- there are other reasons I do my job besides the money. But the money sure helps. Someone else mentioned that earlier, but I wanted to echo it.
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Old 09-05-2013, 11:48 PM   #25
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Great thread. I'm still 3-4 years out from retirement, but these are the little tricks I have to minimize stress at work.

1. Do a 15-minute Tai Chi Chih moving meditation in the morning. This gives me a vitamin shot of serenity that lasts most of the day. I just found out my company has a new meditation room; I will check that out the next time I'm having a stressful day.

2. Arrive late and leave right at 5. I'm lucky in that I mostly work with folks one time zone behind me so even if I arrive late usually they are not at work yet.

3. Take the fitness classes offered at my company's gym during work hours a few times a week, and do a cardio workout in the gym if I'm not taking a class. I usually also do a half-hour power walk with a coworker as a mid-morning break.

4. Work from home as much as possible. Technically this is now discouraged, but I've been able to negotiate my schedule so I work from home half the time. This significantly reduces my stress level. It also helps that I can eat lunch at home, which is cheaper and healthier.

5. When I have downtime, watch technical vodcasts to further my self-education. These are entertaining and informative at the same time. Sometimes I also listen to non-work-related podcasts about travel, language learning, or living overseas.

6. Participate in the company's Weight Watchers group. This has been really inspiring for improving my eating habits and losing weight.

7. Add on a weekend to explore the area whenever I have to travel for work.

8. Take a week of unpaid vacation most years to increase the time I can spend traveling.
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Old 09-06-2013, 12:20 AM   #26
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I disagree with the "arrive late" perspective. I think that just adds more stress, as you have to be prepared to deal with job issues the second you want into the door.

I'd suggest arriving early. That gives you time to settle down, relax from the commute, plan or anticipate the day, even a little exercise. Even think or work on something pleasant before facing the day.

Getting the body in a calm frame of mind will help more to deal with stress than rushing in late into a known stressful situation, in my opinion.
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Old 09-06-2013, 12:34 AM   #27
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I try to check email from home in the morning to find/deal with any emergencies, then I'm not worried about emergencies when I get to the office (very late).

This is a timely topic for me, I've been having more health issues, and as I'm slowly eliminating causes, stress is still sitting there, staring me in the face.

I'm having a really hard time with my boss right now, and I think I need to get kinda angry and direct (which is not me at all). I got transferred to his group in Nov, and we still haven't figured out what changes need to be made. I think I just need to call a meeting and say straight up "Your lack of direction and progress on these issues is causing me excess stress, and I need them resolved asap." And if I don't have progress in a week, I'll go to his manager.

So, back on topic, I'm hoping that being direct about my issues will get me some resolutions, and lower my stress level.
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Old 09-06-2013, 07:22 AM   #28
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I used to get a month's vacation a year - and would take 2 days a month to get stuff done, that you can't do from work. I used to get two 15 minute breaks a day and a lunch period. I used to get off at 4:00.

I have only had about 7 days off in the last 2 years. I haven't been on a break in about 3 years, and I mostly work until 6:00 pm and just eat during working at lunch. It is still not enough.

This is mostly the result of finding, after a week in the hospital (4 days in intensive care because i was on a blood thinner and developed an ulcer and almost bled to death), that there was no excuse for my work not being done.

Yes, they knew I was in the hospital, but perhaps they did not believe me? Doctored medical excuse?

Is my job killing me? Probably
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Old 09-06-2013, 09:08 AM   #29
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It's okay, let's move on. I get the feeling he's never experienced it, can't empathize, and isn't aware of the literature, so he dismisses the concerns as hyperbole. Oh well. You can't expect everyone to understand.
If I can speak for myself, I have most certainly counseled many direct reports who felt exactly like post #1 and necessarily read a lot about it as a result over the years. And I confronted "job burnout" several times in my career, it's pretty common, who hasn't. In my case, I found there was a lot I could do to change my perspective, and helped others to do so as well. I regret my first post on this thread, I should have assumed and responded from a job burnout POV, I simply overreacted to the extreme descriptor terms and the apparent level of discontent.
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Old 09-06-2013, 03:56 PM   #30
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Ok, Midpack. Your'e certainly welcome to add your thoughts about job burnout to the thread, if you like.


Another thought I had was that I find it helpful if I can find a broader perspective to set my concerns in. I suppose you could call it a "spiritual" perspective, although I'm using that term pretty loosely. What I mean is a broader framework for life that puts things in a different perspective. I can sometimes find my way there by reading, prayer, nature, or certain music.

If I can do that, work stressors (which can seem very important when you're in the middle of them) recede in importance. The broader perspective comes into the foreground, and the work stuff fades into the background, where it belongs. Things assume their proper proportions, you might say.
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Old 09-06-2013, 09:31 PM   #31
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Lots of these coping mechanisms seem to revolve around finding ways to be at work less. I find it works the other way around for me. In a stressful work situation I try to come in early and work late. I do find a walk mid-day is relaxing and helps me put things into perspective. But the extra time spent on the job is more likely to reduce the feeling of too much work to do or that I cannot meet (possibly impossible) expectations. If they really are impossible, as the hardest working guy in the place, I feel much less stress that no one could have done it.

If I'm getting impossible conflicting instruction from a bully of a boss, I do an excellent job of documenting everything, clarifying what I've been asked to do, and keep great records of what's been done and what's still to do, even if it means providing daily status reports. I know I'm doing as much as I can (and more than reasonable) and I help insure against the non-reality based recriminations from irrational players which are most likely to threaten my livelihood. This is what helps reduce stress for me.
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Old 09-06-2013, 11:22 PM   #32
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That sounds like a really stressful situation, G.O. Cutting back on your work hours would make things harder, I see.

Fortunately, things are pretty slow at work for me right now, so I can afford to saunter in late and sneak out early. But if you've got a full workload and a nasty boss breathing down your neck, it wouldn't make sense to do that. I'd make sure to CYA in whatever ways I needed to, just as you're doing. Hopefully you don't have to tolerate working for an irrational, bullying boss for too much longer.
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Old 09-06-2013, 11:26 PM   #33
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Quote:
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I don't think anyone was suggesting that a "toxic" office work environment was the same physical danger as police, firefighter, soldier or other truly hazardous occupations.
I'll take a swing at it. It's hard to get non-injury death rates, which would cover stress related deaths, things like heart attacks, etc. But even with just the accident and injury deaths, there are plenty of "normal" jobs with higher death rates than police or firemen. I couldn't find any that listed soldiers, but I suspect that other than in active war zones they are pretty much in line with other professions. Sales jobs, laborers, janitors, nursing, and any job that involves driving are really high. And as an ex-teamster I can tell you that driving careers are highly toxic. And not to minimize the dangers of being a LEO, but if you remove the driving accidents from their death count they're pretty low. So I will agree with most of the other posters. Stress and toxic work environments can kill you, and are just as dangerous as the more visible "dangerous" jobs. Hell, the most common cause of death amongst sales supervisors is homicide. That speaks volumes about stress and toxic environments.

America's Most Dangerous Jobs

Occupational fatality - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities

etc. Just based off some quick googling.
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Old 09-06-2013, 11:52 PM   #34
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Another thought I had was that I find it helpful if I can find a broader perspective to set my concerns in. I suppose you could call it a "spiritual" perspective, although I'm using that term pretty loosely. What I mean is a broader framework for life that puts things in a different perspective. I can sometimes find my way there by reading, prayer, nature, or certain music. .
I could retire anytime and be FI, but still work so DW can ER and fix the home like she wants. So that holistic spiritual perspective mentioned in the quote is part of what I do. And I also bring by 'B' game...especially after work stress from my overachieving 'A' game and travel contributed to my heart attack at age 51 (diet was the third factor).

The other thing is to see how I can be a personal leader, show some respect to the other workers, and try to make my younger coworkers life better at work, in the small ways I can affect it. That also means a good example and not bringing a dark cloud to where these people have to be for quite a lot longer. And doing things like showing up on time and leaving on time, but also speaking up to management with the concerns of more vulnerable employees, and encouraging more transparency from management. I also take a half hour walk at lunch everyday.

I remember when I was a young worker and recall the lack of respect I had for these crabby old guys openly killing time and bringing gloom to the workplace while waiting to retire. That really showed a lot of disrespect for the other employees. There is no need to take the 'pointy haired bosses' out on the younger employees, especially when FI but still working for whatever reason.
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Old 09-06-2013, 11:59 PM   #35
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That sounds like a really stressful situation, G.O. Cutting back on your work hours would make things harder, I see.
Thanks for the sympathy, but I escaped from that place and am working with sane and reasonable people now.
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Old 09-07-2013, 05:54 AM   #36
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Is a firefighter who loves his or her job living a "healthier" life than a cubicle dweller who hates his or her job? Running into a building with your best buddies and the right equipment for a higher purpose may be better for your longevity than dragging yourself to a job in a cubicle with a bully boss.
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Old 09-07-2013, 07:16 AM   #37
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This won't get much support, but consider, and look hard at the "health" part. Not just strength or blood pressure, but the unseen parts of digestion, physical comfort as in chair or rest breaks... away from contact.
Most of all, sleep, and the physical and electrical workings of the mind. A racing mind with no direction but anxiety stretches an hour of work into a day. The subconscious is an enemy that needs redirection.. (much of which you've covered).
Dreams are a good indicator of the mental balance. Bad or active dreams need some experimentation to find the cause... ambient sounds, meals, snacks or drinks and level of physical exhaustion or any other low visibility cause, such as activity prior to bed time.
In addition to self analysis, analyze the "bad guys" to avoid their triggers and hot buttons.
Consider asking the doctor for a prescription of prozac or the like. Personal observation of the effects on many lives makes me a believer. IMO... this is a matter of wisdom and not weakness. The effects often give a benefit that goes far beyond mental discipline, physical tweaks or homeopathic aids.
Sometimes, personal "will" and "mental strength" can be trumped by medical advances. One does not need to be abnormal, to benefit from a little "outside help".
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Old 09-09-2013, 05:40 PM   #38
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Aside from taking care of the body, there are only two coping mechanisms I see:

1) Find a different job that doesn't "kill you."

2) Make peace with your situation and stop letting it impact you so much.

The latter may seem impossible, but there are techniques. First is to accept what cannot be changed. Second is to give yourself permission to care less about fixing things "let it go." Third is to find small moments of enjoyment and focus on those things instead of the drama.

Just because you work with stressed out crazed lunatics doesn't mean you need to become one.

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Old 09-09-2013, 06:47 PM   #39
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The literature I've been reading seems to suggest that there are 3 main emotional states that are damaging to cardiac health:

1. A sense of time pressure, always hurrying, being in a rush.
2. Free floating hostility, especially when combined with cynicism.
3. Strong emotional reactivity when things go wrong or you get criticized.

I'm trying to watch those three areas and see what I can do to interrupt any of that. For instance, if I catch myself getting into a rush, I consciously slow down. If I start getting into a hostile, cynical mindset, I try to shift myself out it. If things go wrong and I tense up, I try to relax into it and just go with the flow.
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Old 09-09-2013, 07:02 PM   #40
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Here's what I did to cope with the stress:

1) I started working harder and harder on my retirement planning.

2) I had a specific retirement date (the first day I was eligible for pension and retiree health care), and began the count-down at around 2650 working days to go, IIRC.

3) I wrote every date in columns on lined paper. Every morning when I arrived at work, the first thing I did was cross off that date. I kept the sheets with crossed off dates to show me how fast I was plowing through them. Also I changed the number of working days left on my white board (from 2650 to 2649, then 2648, etc).

4) Every morning after that I checked my financial accounts and compared with projections.

5) I channeled all my angst into increasing my LBYM severely, and at the same time made a game of it. I was really surprised at how little I truly needed to live on, when the reward for saving more could mean a shorter time working there or more to spend after retirement.

6) I just kept a stiff upper lip, got tough, put my head down and went for it like a tank invading the enemy country at war. Look out right, look out left, here I come.

Overall, this approach left me with a great deal more stress to shed after retirement than I had anticipated. It probably would have killed me if I had had to work there another 10 years, but guess what? I didn't..
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