The life of an Office Ninja is a daily lesson in staying calm under pressure. You’ve gotten so good at rolling with the punches that you don’t let office stress and obstacles get in your way—you back-flip over them instead.
But what about your colleagues? Chances are, some co-workers have some version of that “Keep Calm and…” poster hanging in their cube and actually heed its advice. Others go from zero to hair-on-fire panic mode in less than 60 seconds.
When a stressed-out team member gets all wrapped around the axle, what are the best ways to get them to unwind? Don’t worry—you don’t have to figure this one out on your own. We’ve got a few tips that will help you restore the peace in a jiffy.
1. Lend an Ear
Some people process conflict, worry, and stress by verbalizing it. If a colleague seems upset, grab an empty conference room for a private chat or walk to the local coffee shop together. Use your active listening skills and let them vent without offering advice or judgment. Ask clarifying questions only when they pause.
You can provide the same support to a manager by offering to hold calls for 15 minutes. Once the lines are quiet, ask if there’s anything extra you can do to help. Even if they don’t feel comfortable venting to a direct report, they’ll be grateful for the offer.
2. Make Space
Now, for every person who wants to “talk it out,” there’s someone else who just wants to be left alone. It may take a while to learn your colleagues’ preferences, so proceed with caution at first. If a tense co-worker is closing doors, donning headphones, or ducking out for a solo coffee run, they probably need a minute to deal with the office stress alone. Unless a matter is truly urgent, time and space are key.
If a tense co-worker is closing doors, donning headphones, or ducking out for a solo coffee run, they probably need a minute to deal with the office stress alone. Unless a matter is truly urgent, time and space are key.
3. Give the GIF of Laughter
This one also comes with a “know your audience” caveat. If someone is stressed over a serious health or financial matter, jokes probably aren’t going to help the situation. But a funny GIF has been known lighten the mood amidst everyday, run-of-the-mill work stress.
Search Giphy.com or one of these sites for something that speaks to the person’s sense of humor and pop it into a personalized email. Laughter may be just what they need. Especially if it comes from a dancing pug.
4. Take a Whiff
Our sense of smell can be a powerful tool for stress relief. While your favorite blend of lavender and vanilla isn’t going to fix a major shipping error or solve ongoing internet connectivity issues, it may help everyone slow down, take a deep breath, and approach the situation with a little equanimity. Stock up on
5. Sweat it Out
Exercise is a healthy and effective way to manage and relieve stress. Instituting in-office yoga classes or encouraging walking meetings is a great way to proactively manage your co-workers’ stress levels.
A quick sweat session can also help de-escalate a tense situation much faster than letting it naturally fade. Ask a frazzled co-worker to join you for a run during lunch or even do a few rounds of walking lunges together in the hallway. Endorphins are real!
Active listening, deep breathing, and exercise therapy all have their place, but sometimes indulgence is the way to go. Nothing hits the spot like a piece of chocolate or delicious snacks. Keep a secret stash of the good stuff and break it out when your office-mates need a little pick-me-up.
If your workplace allows it, impromptu happy hours can also boost morale, build camaraderie, and help employees unwind. Stock up on wine and beer so you can reward folks after a tough day or at the end of a trying week.
7. Let Go of Trying Things
At some point, stress will get the best of even the most chilled zen master, causing them to act irrationally or say something regrettable. For the sake of your own sanity, try not to take it personally.
Hopefully, your colleague or boss will see the error of their ways and offer an apology. If they do, accept it and move on. If not, give them a pass—but be sure to address repeat offenses or blatant displays of disrespect.
Who knew “part-time therapist” was among your job responsibilities? That’s what happens when you can run an efficient office and keep your wits about you!
What’s your go-to method for getting stressed-out coworkers to chill?