In a recent interview on my Career Central podcast, Shannon Rollins shared her personal experience of having the stress of a job negatively impact her health. Right out of college she started climbing the corporate ladder. The faster she moved up the worse she felt. She went through a battery of tests and finally received a definitive diagnosis of stress. She immediately changed jobs, only to find her symptoms following her. That was when she realized it was not the job that needed to be changed, it was the way she approached work. Her successful journey to discover how to create a healthy work environment led her to build a business, LivWell, focused on helping others understand how to create a healthy work environment.
During the podcast, Shannon shared strategies listeners could use to determine if it were possible to create a healthy work environment or if it was time for a job change. These strategies included setting boundaries, saying “no,” and being your authentic self.
During this time of COVID-19 and the way it has blurred the lines of work and home for so many, the need to set boundaries has become even more important. To ensure you have the time to refresh and reenergize, she suggested people working from home designate a work only area. Even a small table in a corner where work can be stored, even if it must spill out onto the kitchen table the next day, helps separate work and home life. Another great idea is to set specific work hours and stop checking electronic and phone messages outside those hours. Shannon has always wondered if her first boss would have been willing to help her set limits if she had asked. Recent articles about work life balance show that Shannon’s experience is widespread, and her techniques are effective. A recent article by Krystin Arneson shows the importance of separating work from home and an article in the Harvard Review discusses the role a manager can play in limiting the loss of employees due to stress and burnout.
Shannon’s approach on how to say “no,” is unique. She encouraged listeners to understand why they are saying “yes.” Is it because you want to do the project or because there is a psychological reason that motivates you to say “yes” ? She shared how she discovered her motivation for saying “yes” was her desire to be liked. Once she came to this realization she was able to ask her herself, before responding to a request to do something, was she saying “yes” because the project advanced organizational goals or because she wanted to please the person asking. This insight help bring her workload under control.
Her final suggestion was to be your authentic self at work. The idea of “fake it till you make it” works in the short term for closing a skill gap but it is a formula for failure when applied to who you are at work. She encouraged listeners to identify their strengths and make sure their current job taps into those strengths. When job success depends on using skills you do not enjoy using you can find yourself dealing with internal friction that can increase your level of stress.
To hear all Shannon had to share on how setting boundaries, saying “no,” and being your true self at work can help you advance your career goals, check out her interview.
Lorraine Beaman is the CEO of Interview2work LLC and host of Career Central which is broadcast live every Monday at 11 AM Pacific Time on the VoiceAmerica Business Channel. Each week, she interviews professionals about real-world strategies listeners can use to develop and advance their careers.