Advice Column for Work Related Issues | Solutions for work related issues with
co-workers & boss, stress, overwhelm, communication blocks, promotion, workaholism & sexual harassment.

Self Help Advice Column for Work Related Issues

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Personal Growth Advice Columnist for Job Issues

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Dear KRS
I have a very demanding
boss, who seems to have quite a negative outlook on life and his expectations of me are too high. I am finding myself constantly working harder trying to match his expectations. I am working longer and longer hours as my self-esteem is waning and my stress and anxiety levels are getting really high. What is the best way to combat this situation and keep my stress levels to a minimum, but not completely anger or disappoint my manager?
Demanding Boss

Dear Demanding Boss,
You are not alone. In fact one study showed that 75 percent of Americans describe their jobs as stressful. It may be that you are being given too much work without the proper instruction or it may be that this job is not the right one for you. Either way, believe that there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with you. You are a good person who is trying your best.


  1. If you haven’t already, set up a private meeting with your boss. Explain how you feel and what you think would help you perform better. Your boss may be enlightened by your courage to communicate so openly which could positively alter the entire dynamic of your working relationship. The worst thing that can happen is that one or both of you decide that this job is not for you. Should that be the case it may be a blessing in disguise which leads me to –
  2. Start checking around for other job possibilities. Believe that you have something to offer and that the right company would be lucky to have you (it’s the truth). Just the looking process will help restore a feeling of hopefulness (versus helplessness) as you are taking action and you will realize there is another world outside your present job.
  3. Positive affirmations. Tell yourself over and over again that you are good enough and that you are valuable as a human being. Select a phrase and repeat it day and night. Write it over and over. Try: “I have something valuable to offer and I am good enough.” If that doesn’t “click” with you, work on another. Realize that you are presently overwhelmed and this is something that can be reversed along with your waning self-esteem.

Hang in there and have faith. You are meant to be going through this process for your inner growth. There are no mistakes.

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Dear KRS,
I am currently engaged
in giving small workshops to 20-30 people. The night before the seminar I have difficulty sleeping and feel extremely anxious. Participants in the groups comment that I present myself well as a communicator and always look relaxed. If they only knew. I have also started competing in Masters athletic events. When training for these events I do very well but in competition I feel extremely anxious and consequently cannot perform up to standard. Your help would be appreciated.
Performance Anxiety.

Dear Performance Anxiety,
It may help you to know that performance anxiety is very common. In fact, experts say public speaking is our number one fear, surpassing the fear of dying!

Pursuing things you fear is an excellent vehicle for you to overcome not only your fears but the deep rooted causes behind them. The worst aspects of fear, if you break it down, are the physical sensations – the tight shoulders, rapid heartbeat or whatever your personal reactions to stress might be. In other words, thoughts cause physical reactions which alarm us and cause more stressful “what if” thoughts – and so on into a negative self-perpetuating cycle.

Here are two suggestions to implement when stressful thoughts arise:

1) Ask yourself “Where do I feel the stress in my body right now?” Then focus on that area, circle the pain with an imaginary magic marker and observe it with interest versus fear. Study all aspects of the tense area and give yourself permission to let go of the tension in that area. When outside thoughts arise, just bring your attention back to the physical discomfort and continue to open and release that area of your body as you let your breathing grow deep and rhythmic. As this area releases you will feel more relaxed and ready to drift off.

2) Catch nervous negative thoughts and images and replace them with a positive image such as you standing at the podium in complete confidence doing what you love and telling people what they want to know. Whether you stumble on a word or have to check your notes is SO unimportant. The main thing to remember is that you have information they will enjoy hearing. You already have input that you look relaxed and people enjoy what you say. Believe it! During athletic competition, try to put your mind in the space when you are alone practicing. Block out any external input and stay in your space.

This challenge is not a roadblock. It is a wonderful opportunity to overcome a needless fear and become a better speaker, athlete and – person.

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Dear KRS,
I'm a 52-year-old
part time student and a full time secretary in a large company. I have enjoyed my job except for the past seven years. I attribute this to my boss of your worst nightmare. He's indecisive, rude and insensitive. Many others share my opinion and have little respect for him. There have been numerous complaints about this man to the "powers that be" but no action has been taken. I have just a few years until retirement. The only advice I've received is to request a transfer. I feel I should not have to leave people and an office I otherwise enjoy.
Good Job, Bad Boss

Dear Good Job,
Since the “powers that be” have not taken action, look into the transfer situation. Your retirement benefits should transfer with your job. A bad boss can be bad for your health, and we want to be sure you live long enough to retire - right? You can stay in touch with your friends while making new ones at the new job. Sound scary?

Life presents opportunities for growth which we often mightily resist. Change is challenging for most of us. You are in a comfort zone that is no longer comforting but I understand how difficult it is to make a move after all this time. Have faith that taking the risk and going into uncharted waters will be exhilarating and transformational. Don't stay in a negative, depleting situation out of fear or stubbornness. Think of this as your personal Boston Marathon.

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Dear KRS,
When interviewing
for jobs I get very tense and stressful. This leads to fidgeting which I’m sure leaves a bad impression. This can also happen in social situations, during normal conversation with people I know. Is there any way I can deal with that? 
Interview Shy

Dear Shy,
Social shyness is a very common problem and fortunately one that can be improved upon. Whether it originated with negative childhood experiences or something else, the point is to take action to change your reactions, starting today. 

So what do you do? You “go towards the roar of the lion.” That means you put yourself in every situation you can that involves talking with people and interacting with them. Practice meeting their eyes when you are talking and practice listening to what they have to say. As you talk with them realize that they are just like you and that they aren’t casting judgment. 

Try to focus less on your uncomfortable sensations and more on feeling a connection with them. Open your heart to them and you will feel their heart opening to you. You will feel the shyness and feelings of inadequacy dissolve as you have more and more positive experiences. Practice talking with the grocery clerk, your postman, your neighbors and friends. Make a chart and resolve to have at least one “practice” exchange each day. Cross off a day on your calendar as you’ve met your daily goal. After one month of practice, you should notice an improvement in your communication skills and in your comfort level when conversing.

Think of this as a personal challenge that you will overcome. Realize that in conquering this weakness you will not only overcome any interviewing inadequacies but you will have overcome much more. Your self-esteem will improve and you will feel better about yourself in other aspects of your life as well. 

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Dear KRS,
I'm a 34 year old
working mom who is having trouble finding time for myself. Since I had my baby, it seems like I finish my "paycheck job" only to head home to another full time job. Since my baby is in daycare all day, I want to be with her as much as possible the rest of the time - but then there's no time left over for me. I'm not asking for two weeks in Hawaii, just a break here and there.
Tired Working Mom

Dear Working Mom,
You're not imagining things. You really do have "two jobs" and a very demanding schedule. In fact, the average combined home/office workweek for women is 75 hours compared to only 62 hours for men. That's a 13 hour difference! 

Congratulations for recognizing that you need a "balance adjustment" versus trying to be a Super Mom (who ultimately ends up an exhausted, Unfulfilled Mom). A break "here and there" is well within your reach. Here are a few ideas that you can customize to suit your particular lifestyle. Write them down along with any others so they will be handy on days you are too tired to think.

- Instead of listening to the news at home or in your car, play special soothing music. Your baby and husband will respond positively to it as well. 

- Make a ritual of soaking in a bath each night (after your little one is firmly ensconced in the Land of Nod). Light candles, play soft music (Hawaiian music perhaps?) and sip herbal tea while you visualize being on a quiet beach in Hawaii. 

These mini-breaks will restore mental and physical calm, balance and vitality. This, in turn, will make you an even better mom. Got the message? You can't afford NOT to make time for yourself. 
P.S. This also does wonders for working dads!

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Dear KRS,
I am having a problem
with a peer who undermines my efforts and has taken full credit for projects we have worked on together. I have tried to talk with her about it, but she claims innocence. I hesitate going to the owner of the company, as it might appear too self-serving. What do you think?
Undermined at Work

Dear Undermined,
You were right in trying to talk with your peer but it's time to take the next step. Talk with the owner about the situation calmly and factually versus with emotionally charged accusations. Relate that this has been going on for some time. Have examples ready, if needed. Mention that it is discouraging and hard on your morale. These are red flags for anyone trying to run a healthy, profitable company. Don't be surprised if the owner knows more about the situation than you think. Your vocalization of it may be just what is needed to make a change.

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Dear KRS,
I'm in a position
that requires a lot of phone contact with my associates. Getting my first cell phone a few years ago was like magic to me. I was immediately hooked. Being able to make calls anywhere and always be available solved all my problems .... Now it's causing problems. I'm conducting business on my cell everywhere I go - in my car, in restaurants, at sporting events. The novelty has long ago worn off and I never get a break in my day. Any suggestions?
Hooked on Cell Phone

Dear Hooked,
Technology is wonderful as long as we remain the masters of it, not the slaves. You have become the slave - along with approximately 80 million other Americans since the introduction of the cellular phone in 1983.

Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Without much needed breaks, your energy is constantly going outward with no time to recharge your own "batteries." Down time such as walking to your car, driving, eating and so on is very important. This is when you process the input of the day and catch up both mentally and energetically, not dissimilar to the purpose behind sleeping and dreaming.

Limiting your phone usage while driving is perhaps the number one place to start, not only for your mental well being but for your physical. As you know, car accidents caused by inattentiveness from cell phone use is on the rise. Unless you are an air traffic controller who has been trained for multi-task activities, consider limiting your car phone use to emergencies.

Start weaning yourself off your cell phone in decreasing amounts over a period of 4-8 weeks, or whatever timeline you know you can stay with. Be specific each step of the way and be firm when old habits arise. The same applies to internet addiction. This may sound outrageous, but I sign off on my PC Friday night and don’t sign back on until Monday morning. It was a challenge at first, but now it’s like getting off the fast lane and entering into a spa weekend. Think about a baby step that would be doable for you and you will be happier, healthier and lead a more balanced life.

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Dear KRS,
I am at a crucial
point in my career where it demands much of my time and attention. Things are going well and I am building a great future for my family. However, my wife of 12 years says she and our two children aren't seeing enough of me. When I bring work home so that I can be around more, she complains that I'm not really "there." The tension of this situation is giving me headaches and making matters worse. What's the solution?
Family vs Work

Dear Family,
It's an interesting but not unfamiliar irony - the very thing you are trying to give your family could actually destroy it. The important thing is that you are taking the situation seriously and catching it early. Too often, I hear the post divorce lament, "If I had only listened better or done something." 

What your family needs (including you) is quality time. Time that is reserved solely for each other. Talk this over with your wife and designate:

1) A "date night" together once a week. It may be a night out on the town or alone at home (leaving the children with friends or relative). Trade off thinking of ideas. 

2) A family night or weekend outing centered around the children. Ask for their input. 

Honor these times as you would your most important business meeting. You will be surprised at how powerful an impact this has on you and your family. The positive effect will carry over into the entire week.

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Dear KRS,

I have been at my present job for 11 months and I enjoy my work. The company shines in developing employees and advancing them within the company. This is important to me and since I am good at what I do, I am enthusiastic about the prospects.

Unfortunately, my superior is making me increasingly uncomfortable with his attentions. In the beginning I thought he was just taking me under his wing, but as time goes on, I realize he is spending too much time “trying to help.”

The past month he has started complimenting me on my attire and my body. This may sound insignificant, but he has also started making physical contact, like patting me on the back and leaving his hand there for a minute. I don’t want to “rock the apple cart” so I have tried to be polite about it. How do I handle this?

Confused About Boss’s Attentions

Dear Confused About Boss's Attentions

What you are experiencing is called sexual harassment and it is more common than you probably are aware. You first must honor your feelings and the reality of what is happening. Don’t worry about the apple cart or your job right now.

Approach your superior in the morning before he comes to your desk. This move is important because it puts you in an aggressive position versus passive. Ask him for an appointment to meet with him as soon as is convenient.

In the meeting, tell him how uncomfortable you are with his attentions and to please cease. Be firm, not hysterical. I wouldn’t throw around “sexual harassment” yet. Give him a chance. Perhaps he was misreading your passivity or politeness as a green flag.

Meanwhile, make notes of time, date and content of this meeting and any others. The very next time he makes you uncomfortable, give him one last chance, this time mentioning that you consider his actions sexual harassment and that if he doesn’t stop you will contact his superior. If his behavior continues, follow through immediately with your promise. Meet with his superior and stick to your guns. Do the right thing and things will work out as they are meant.

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Dear KRS,
I am presently
faced with some very difficult situations at work as well as at home, and I need some help and guidance. The stressful life I have been living is starting to show its effects – anxiety, panic attacks at night, disturbed sleep, a mild phobia, etc. 

Things are quite complicated, and I am not sure I could explain them in a satisfactory manner in a few paragraphs, but I will try to focus on what is the most pressing right now. 

I work for a very good company and I have quite a good job. The problems at work are of a relational nature. When I started with this company, I was very stressed and in a state of anxiety (it looks like it is a chronic problem with me), and because of this, I did a number of things that I think were misinterpreted by my colleagues. For this reason, I was not fully accepted by the team members. 

This feeling of isolation made me say and do even more things that were not well taken. I finally got to a point where I felt I couldn’t take it any more and I decided to quit, but after a lot of thinking, I decided to try to fix things. The problem is that I continue to feel isolated, stressed, anxious and unhappy. Given the fact that I don’t feel any motivation to work because of these feelings, I need to find a solution pretty quickly if I want to continue working for this company. Do you have any suggestions? 
Anxiety from Job

Dear Stressed,
First, statistics show that most people experience high levels of stress at least once a week, so you are not alone even though you may feel that way. Problems in the psychological realm are often blown up bigger than necessary, when there thankfully are some very effective solutions. All your symptoms – panic attacks, insomnia, work relationships and so forth are, as you know, related to the ONE thing – stress. It’s sometimes helpful to understand that you don’t have lots of unrelated problems to solve. 

When you say you decided to “fix” things, I’m not sure what you mean, but I hope it was along the lines of communication. In other words, people DO understand and empathize (don’t mix that up with pity) surprisingly well when you express your problems openly and truthfully. Once you open yourself to your coworkers they may surprise you with similar stories and helpful suggestions such as counselors, books and other resources. Also, many companies have their own employee stress management programs so you might want to check into that as well.

A few other suggestions. Exercise. Sweat at least 20 minutes each day, no matter when or how you have to fit it in. It releases endorphins (your own natural pain killer and anti-depressant). Also, take time out to relax (not TV watching) – meditate, take a jacuzzi, talk with friends and family, take nature walks. Make a list of those things you would enjoy doing and then INK them into each and every day, even if only for a few minutes.

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Dear KRS,
I'm extreme
ly stressed out over work lately! I'm slacking off and just can't seem to pull it all together.  It feels like my life is crumbling before me! What can I do to release some of this tension?
Stressed at Work

Dear Stressed at Work,
Unresolved stress gets trapped in the body and creates a feeling of internal pressure, like a volcano ready to explode.  Your instinct is right - to "release" the built-up tension.  The trick is not to release it in a destructive way, such as taking it out on those around you.  Here are a few suggestions to release the tension in a constructive way that can actually be quite therapeutic:

1)  Hit a pillow or mattress until you are exhausted.  Rest 30 seconds and repeat this process three times.  Don't be surprised if, by the end, tears come.   It's just your volcano's way of erupting - and releasing the stored tension.

2)  Scream and yell out loud.  A good place to do this is in your car or into a pillow (if you have neighbors).

Even if you think it seems silly, give it an honest try and you will be amazed at how effective and simple it is.

Naturally, you also want to do what you can to minimize your job stress, such as communicating your feelings to your boss or even consider changing jobs. 

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Dear KRS,
"I'm a 37 year old executive, single and am happy with what I've achieved thus far in my career.  However, I am disheartened that at this age and stage of my life, my success is often difficult to enjoy because I'm always so stressed.  Basically, I have "bitten the bullet" over the years, ignoring the tension and frequently working 10 hour days. The older I get, the harder it is to ignore.  Where do I start?"
Stressed from Success

Dear Stressed from Success,
I don't believe in remorse but I do believe in learning from the past.  Most people go to their graves never stopping to reflect on the quality of their lives.  They are so busy keeping the hamster wheel going, they don't see that they are on one.  The good news is that by bringing awareness into our days, the "hamster wheel" can be experienced in a new way that actually transforms the wheel to a challenging but fascinating road with lots of rewarding forks.  Congratulations on seeking quality in your life.  Two simple suggestions towards achieving it:

1.  Pause regularly throughout the day for a "be in the moment" check (10-60 seconds).  Put a "be in the moment" sign or reminder on your desk that will bring you to a stop at least once a day.  Look around you and really absorb where you are and what you are doing - in this town, in this building, in this room, holding this file.  Even if it's unpleasant, be still with it and relax into it.  Let your shoulders drop, your face muscles soften.  Eventually you'll learn to recognize the beginning stages of stress so it doesn't have to get to the grinding-your-teeth-at-night stage.

2.  Reinvent your time for YOU.  There's a whole world of people, places and things, not to mention time alone, that's passing you by.  Start by going home on time. Life doesn't have to be a constant emergency.  Besides, statistics say little is accomplished in those extra hours workaholics log.

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Dear KRS,
I've just been laid off from my job of 5 years and am feeling pretty depressed. Any suggestions?
Out of Work

Dear Out of Work,
First of all, DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY.  Often the worst part about being laid off is the feeling of rejection, of not feeling "good enough."  This can make it difficult to find the courage and self-esteem to look for another job.  Realize that businesses must make decisions for reasons often unrelated to the employee in question.   Unfortunately, they aren't always educated in how to effectively communicate with employees when letting them go. 

Next, update your resume, make specific goals on your new job hunt (how many calls per day you will make, etc.), and consider that this may have happened for a reason.  Perhaps you were meant for something different.  Change is uncomfortable for most people, but it can be exciting if you open yourself to the experience.  Rather than thinking, "I'm doomed" think, "Anything is possible."

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