5 Tips for Talking to your Boss about Stress

Whatever your industry, it is more important than ever to know how to discuss stress with those that have the power to change it — namely, your boss. These five tips will help you start a dialogue about stress and overwork with your higher ups.

1. Find the source of your stress

Identify the specific stressors that are most concerning. If a particular situation doesn’t immediately spring to mind, take a moment to write down everything you do at work and how much time you spend on each activity, including favors you do for co-workers and responding to e-mails.

2. Get the timing right

Know when it’s time to go to a superior. If this is something that can be resolved before speaking to your boss, such as a disagreement with a colleague, try addressing the stressful situation at a lower-level first.

3. Schedule a meeting

Send your boss an e-mail to set up a meeting. Simply ask for a 15-20 minute conversation to discuss your job performance. It is important to have these discussions face-to-face, so that your concerns are given the weight and attention they merit. The e-mail you send will form the beginning of a paper trail to prove, if need be, that you’ve taken steps to address the stress.

4. Keep it short

Keep the meeting short and to the point. Be clear about what is worrying you and give examples. Are you short staffed? Do you feel pressure to attend to work after hours? Focus on addressing these concerns, and only these, in the meeting while doing your best to keep your emotions out of it. (Now is not the time to ask for a raise or promotion!)

5. Be Prepared

Come to the meeting armed with some solutions to your workplace stress. Express your gratitude for your work, and ask for permission to carry out your suggestions. Your boss may have other solutions she’d like to implement, but by suggesting your own fixes, you show you are serious about improving the stressful situation, whatever it may be.

Once your employers know that stress is a concern, they may do a better job of keeping your workload to a manageable level in the future. If after a week or two, you feel just as stressed out as when you had your initial discussion, don’t be afraid to schedule a follow-up. Remember, your health and safety may depend on it.