How to deal with stress at work How to deal with stress at work

I'm assuming I'm not alone with this one, but on a daily basis I seem to bring home a lot of stress from work.  At one point I use to bring home so much stress that I was unable to sleep at night.  From time-to-time it still happens, but with these techniques below I have been able to significantly improve the amount of stress I bring home from work.

Before we discuss resolutions, let's discuss the type of stress us web developers/project managers bring home on a daily basis.

  • Angry clients
  • Your team members not performing well
  • A mistake by you
  • A bug that you were unable to find
  • Too much work
  • Mean boss
  • Difficult co-workers

I'm sure this list could carry on a lot longer, but I think we get the point with HOW much stress we can bring home on a daily basis.

Let's begin by breaking each one down.

Angry Clients

Luckily this is something we usually do not need to deal with on a daily basis.  When the occasion occurs and you come across an angry client, the best way to deal with it is to work with them.  Be upfront and honest with them.  Tell them a mistake has occurred, tell them your timeline to fix it, and the most important thing is to tell them that the more time they spend yelling at you, the longer it will take to fix the problem.

Honesty with clients can go a long way and ensuring they see things from your side is just as important.

Most importantly, if I client pushes you, do NOT be afraid to push back.  Clients are like kids, they learn how much and what they can and cannot get away with, make it clear what they cannot get away with.  By doing so, hopefully in the future the issues won't even arise!

Team members not performing well

This is a tough one and is usually a re-occurring one and no easy solution.  The best advice I can provide here is to document the issues, schedule a meeting, and sit down with the individual in question.

It's important to be tactful and ensure not to hurt people's feelings, but by no means does this mean you should sugarcoat things.  Sometimes you cannot avoid it as people tend to not take critism very well and in these cases simply attempt to re-assure them that it is nothing personal and you want to work with them to improve in their areas of weakness.

A mistake by you

Unless you are absolutely perfect, at some point in your career you will deal with this stress.  For some people it's quite easy to deal with, but those are usually rare occassions.

In the event you have made a mistake, the first thing to do is not become so overwhelmed that you cannot focus.  The first place to start is to determine how large the problem is and re-act appropriately.

Just like with angry clients, if your mistake affects the client, let them know upfront so they don't find out on their own.  Work with them and let them know you are working on the issue.

If it's an issue with lost data, hopefully you have read my previous article about the importance of backing up!

A bug that you were unable to find

There is nothing worse than ending the day mad or upset because you couldn't solve the problem.  Like the point above, it's important to not let this overwhelm you.  Just go with the flow.  If you miss a deadline, let the client know, they can do nothing but understand.

If a client is willing to fire you (or your company) over something like this, at the end of the day it is probably for the better.  At some point that type of person will run out of people to fire!

Too much work

With the current recession we are in, this is probably not occurring for too many people.  However, I know this one all too well.  Prior to February I had more work than I could handle for an entire year!  It was extremely stressful and very difficult to come home and focus on my home life.

I'm still here to tell the story, so I obviously survived.  My solution was the following: every morning when I arrived at work I would go through the many emails.  I would begin by responding to the easy ones and filing away the "thank you" emails.  Any emails I couldn't answer or required investigation or work, I would jot down a note in my scratch pad (Google sidebar add-on).  Once I had finished going through my email, I would organize a to-do list.

Some mornings I would spend almost 2 hours doing this!  It seems ludicrous, as that is 2 hours of "nothing being accomplished".  It might seem that way, but trust me, it's not.  Once I had my to-do list, I would prioritize that list.

Finally, I'm ready to work.  Now the stressfull part, finding out if there is anyone in the office to help you out.  Usually it was a no, so I just began working through the high priority items.  As I would finish an item, I would let the client know and keep on plowing through.

It wasn't always possible to complete everything on the list, but every client would see progress and I would always let them know what we are still working on.

It was quite rare that clients were unhappy with the timing.  When they were, just tell them, we can rush more, but our quality will suffer because of unrealistic timelines - they quickly understand ;)

Mean boss

Where to begin.  At my previous job I had to deal with a mean boss.  At the time I was just a web developer and I think it was almost as stressful as some of the issues I described above.

If you have the guts, I would suggest attempting to talk with them about the problem.  I never took this approach as I did not honestly believe that it would help my situation - it was simply their personality.

Instead, I took it with a grain of salt, kept my head down and did my best to not argue back.  Ultimately, I left that job - not for that reason alone, but it played a factor in my decision.

Difficult co-workers

This is similar to the above, but a bit easier.  I would address this issue the same way when someone on your team makes a mistake.

Document the problem, discuss it with them.  If this goes no where, take it to the management team and have them mediate the problem.


I hope this article helps you, I surely could have used it a couple of years ago, instead I had to learn everything the hard way.

Published on Mar 17, 2009

Tags: stress | Theory

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