By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. People in my industry are starting to believe we're coming out of the recession, but everyone at my job is still expected to do more with less. We laid off people, cut budgets, and reduced our resources. I'm exhausted! How can I cope with this job stress until the economy rebounds?
A. You need to change the way you're doing your job to account for the reality that no one has a crystal ball that can predict when the economy will rebound. If you work yourself at a frenzied pace, believing that there will soon be a light at the end of the tunnel, you'll only end up achieving burnout.
Realize first that other people's opinions of you truly are none of your business. I know it's scary to take the risk of diplomatically disappointing the expectations of your boss, coworkers or customers. However, if you're not realistic about your limits upfront everyone will end up being madder at you in the long run.
Your compass in today's workplace needs to be your long-term ability to remain productive. If you keep running sprints day after day at your office, you'll find out when you collapse in a heap that there are no long-distance sprinters.
Imagine instead that your "do more with less" office environment was a marathon. Realize that you are going to be disappointing someone's expectations in your workplace every day. Realize as well that going to these people and letting them know what you can do and negotiating longer timelines for the rest will build your credibility.
All of us like to consider that we might be able to be superhuman or pull magic rabbits out of hats for people we want to impress at work. Most workplaces even promise big financial rewards to people who try to achieve these feats consistently.
The danger is that your career will become a shooting star, bright and full of promise but it soon goes dark against the night sky. Longevity at work never goes out of style, no matter what the state of the economy.
I've gotten a flood of letters from readers who feel exactly the way you do. They are being pressured by people up the corporate hierarchy who are scared. When the economy soured, fear went like a lightning strike from top to bottom in most companies. Fear creates adrenaline and allows a temporary surge in human productivity.
However, long-term adrenaline spikes in the body literally exhaust us. Then our organizations notice their workers appear to be moving in slow motion.
There's a joke circulating in many workplaces that "there was a light at the end of the tunnel but it was cancelled by budget cuts." The truth in this humor is that most people are holding their breath wondering if another economic shoe is going to drop.
What you can do is exhale, set limits, disappoint people up front, and negotiate for realistic long-term goals.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). Contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.
May 8, 2011 - May 21, 2011 Edition