Stress or Guilt?

August 31, 2010 | By Georgie Carpenter


I think this blog entry might upset a few people. The intention is not to do that, but it is an opportunity for those gainfully employed to take stock of a few things.

As a recruiter, I am privy to many things. These things can range from the type of food you feed your cat, to your most embarrassing work place stories, to corporate IP. Seriously, sometimes the 10collective interview room is more like a confessional. Lately, instead of the more colourful stories of torrid workplace romances and inexplicably unfair dismissals, I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about stress. Lots of you seem kinda stressed.

According to this OHS Reps @ Work blog entry the causes of stress can be classified under one of three areas: Working Conditions, Doing the job and Work Relationships.

As a recruiter I don’t have power over your working conditions, my clients do. I also can’t control how you interact or are interacted with. After all, we place adults, not little kids. The only thing we can help you with is how you do your job and how that job is communicated to you. Even then, we walk a fine line. We can discreetly nudge our clients in the right direction, or give them a tip about the best way to manage you, but again, our clients are adults and not puppets. So, where do we start when we know you’re having a rough time of it? With you, of course.

If you are experiencing stress at work, but you can’t really pinpoint what is causing the stress, because the company is awesome and the people are nice, just ask yourself this first: Am I managing my time properly?

When you go home, have you achieved anything? If not, why not? I swear, from my own experience working in office-land, the ONLY times I have really got stressed or tired from work, were on the days that I came home and just knew, deep down, that frankly, I hadn’t done anything. I could have been making lists, and emailing and talking to people all day, but what did I actually do to achieve the things I was supposed to achieve? That’s right, zilch. I filled the day with tasks that looked incredibly complex, and performed a show to make everyone believe I was getting through the things I needed to get through. But those are the days that can become your worst habit, and eventually, when you’ve done enough of them in a row, completely change how you feel about going to work.

So when you get home, what do you feel? You feel guilty dude. Totally guilty. And that guilt makes you worry, it makes you think about work, then you can’t switch off your brain when you lay down to sleep, and it makes you not want to get out of bed the next day. Then you get tired, and you can’t do the work you’re supposed to do anyway.

So, are you stressed? Or are you guilty? Because if it’s the latter, you need to look at your workload. Is it real, or are your activities just time fillers? What can you do to manage your time better? Try these four very basic guilt killers before quitting your job and getting a new one where the cycle of habitual work pain continues and your basic guilt turns into debilitating depression:

  1. Focus and get in the zone. If that means headphones in, do it. If that means, switching off your mobile, do it. Whatever it takes, do it.
  2. Take five minutes to write down your goals/KPI’s
  3. Prioritise the most essential tasks
  4. Just do them. Even better, do the hard annoying ones first. Get through them. Get them out of your mind.

The whole point is, that once those things that have begun to nag you in your mind are gone, you’ll be a far more pleasant, effective person to work with. And suddenly your job just won’t seem that bad.

That said, real Work Related Stress definitely exists. At no point am I saying it doesn’t. If you have given yourself a good hard performance review and your stress still persistently eats at you, then call me. Then, I’ll get you another job.

Photo by Alan Cleaver.