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4 ways to handle a high stress job environment

Today I’m writing about how to deal with a super stressful job.

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I’ve worked for three years in a highly intense job, and I’m utterly worn out. I run the customer-service department for a utility company, and all the most difficult customers get passed up to me to handle. Also, my staff can be as nasty as the customers.

I drag myself to work every day. I’m too busy to take a lunch, and so I eat at my desk. I often work past 5 p.m. — not because I want to but because managers are expected to stay until the day’s major problems have been handled.

The unremitting stress has affected my personal life. My guy friend and I broke up several months ago. Although I’m exhausted at night, I can’t get a good night’s sleep and wake up off and on all night. What I really need is a break, but I’ve used up all my vacation time with several bad bouts of pneumonia, and I have no more paid time off.

What do I do?

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We need to tackle ways to reduce your job stress from several fronts.

Delegate: Do you have any employees who can function as “second in command” and be someone to whom you can delegate? Few employees can work nine to 10 hours daily without a break.

Training: If delegating isn’t possible, can you arrange training for your customer-service representatives to better equip them to handle problems? If so, you achieve two things. First, well-trained employees can better manage difficult customers, thus passing fewer problems on to you and lessening your workload.

Second, trained employees treat their managers and one another better. Why? When front-line employees daily handle angry, upset customers, they become angry and upset themselves, because they absorb the toxic energy present in each problematic encounter. Once employees gain improved skills, they defuse problem customers’ ire faster, experience less stress and feel more successful.

Workload: Is the problem that you and your employees face an unmanageable workload? If so, can you ask your employer to add staff? If the employer’s finances prohibit this, consider taking at least a 20-minute break during the noon hour. You may find you’re more productive with a short day break than you were working straight through the day.

Leave: Perhaps ask your senior manager or human-resources representative whether you can be granted additional paid or even unpaid leave as compensation for the load you’ve been handling. Your doctor may be able to provide you a medical justification to support your request. If you don’t have a doctor, I urge you to find one to help you regain your physical health and reestablish good sleep patterns.

Finally, if the above doesn’t work, you may want to change jobs.

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© 2016, Lynne Curry. Curry is the author of Solutions and Beating the Workplace Bully (AMACOM). You can also follow her on Twitter @lynnecurry10 or access her other posts on SheKnows, or

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