My New Job is Stressing Me Out!

If this blog’s headline strikes a chord with you, you’re probably not alone. What helps make a new job unsettling at best and highly stressful at worst is the disconnect that too often seems to occur between what you expected the situation to be and what it actually is. The root cause isn’t always obvious, and what you should do about it might not be obvious either. It merits some careful thought.

Voluntary Job Change–Why Stressful?

Assuming you’ve pursued and landed the new job because you wanted to make a change and felt this was the right choice, why are you finding it stressful? Of course, there could be a number of reasons, but here are a few:

  • You didn’t prepare as well as you thought or as well as you should have, so you have encountered more surprises than you were ready for.
  • You forgot just how much adjustment is involved when taking on a new role in a new company, and you’re not cutting yourself enough slack during that period of adjustment.
  • Events occurred that you couldn’t have anticipated, and they’re complicating the already-complex settling-in process. That could include management changes, restructuring that affects your job or group, or many other situations that force you to adapt and re-adapt frequently.

New Job Desperation

At least with a voluntary job change, you know you had choices. That said, you can hope to navigate through the stress of those first few months at least partly by assuring yourself that–in all probability–things will get better as you continue to work out the “bugs.” On the other hand, if you made an involuntary job change–whether because of a layoff or a termination or some other factor–you might have the added stress of feeling a sense of desperation, a burning need to make a success of the new job “or else.”

I doubt whether anyone can really wipe out that added stress for you, but I’ve seen personally and with clients throughout my adult life that it is possible to mitigate the stress. The list of potential approaches for doing this is probably a very long one, but these are some that I’ve seen work effectively:

  • Beg, borrow or steal at least a few minutes each day (more than a few if you can manage it) to decompress periodically, much as a deep-sea diver has to do during an ascent. You might not get the bends if you don’t do this, but other health repercussions certainly could occur.
  • Establish a flexible method of prioritizing and re-prioritizing your “to do” items to help you stay organized when chaos threatens to overwhelm you. It doesn’t matter whether you go high-tech or low-tech for your method; what matters is that it’s something you can and will use consistently.
  • Document instructions received as to what you need to be doing–including the source of those instructions. Generally, your immediate boss’ instructions would be considered the most important, but what happens if his/her boss comes straight to you with a directive or if someone who works for an executive in another department than yours gives you an “urgent” task to tackle? Obviously, you’d want to get clearance from your boss for departures from the expected process, but in any case, document key points–for your own protection if nothing else.

When all else fails, remember the old adage, “This, too, shall pass,” which indicates that all material conditions are temporary. You might not be able to control all aspects of a situation, but you can often influence their direction and duration.

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