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How stress is bad for your career


Do you sometimes feel stressed and overwhelmed at work?


According to the Health and Safety Executive, 12 and a half million work days are lost each year due to people being unable to come to work because of stress.


And what’s less obvious, but just as worrying, is how stress has an impact on your performance when you are in work.


In last week's blog post I explained the two types of stress, and which one is dangerous.


I explained what actually happens in our bodies when we’re stressed (and why it’s what happens IN BETWEEN stress episodes that really matters).


And I explained the impact of stress on our health and our brains.


In today’s post, I write about the five different ways stress has an impact on our careers.



First, on your work relationships.


I once lost my temper, badly, in a meeting with a junior colleague.


It is one of the moments of my career I am least proud of.


At the time, I was working in the National Crime Agency, leading a high-profile, complex project that had a lot of politics (with a small p).


And I found myself snapping badly at someone, in a totally disproportionate reaction - in front of other people.


And it was because of stress.


I instantly realised what I’d done, and apologised - but I knew it was bad behaviour, and behaviour I did not want to repeat.


So I took steps from that day to reduce my stress levels and regain my balance.


And it never happen again.


If you are stressed, you don’t always react in the best way you can to people.


At best, this has a short-term damaging impact on your relationship with that person.


At worst, it impacts long-term on your reputation.


When you are stressed, you are not balanced, not measured, and not calm.


And this does not lead to productive working relationships.



Second, stress affects your judgement.


If you are stressed, you are more likely to take poor decisions.


You are less able to think clearly (because of all those hormones rushing around the body, as I discussed yesterday), and more likely to jump to an instant answer without carefully considering all the ramifications and risks.


Taking one bad decision will have a consequence.


And repeatedly taking many bad decisions will give you a reputation for poor judgement.


This is not good for your career.



Third, stress can lead to procrastination.


A particular form of stress is overwhelm.


When you feel like you have too much to do, you can never get it all done, and you don’t know where to start.


This is likely to lead to procrastination.


You do want to take a decision and move forward, but you can never quite make yourself.


So you end up imprisoned in a horrible cycle, feeling stressed, stuck and guilty.


As Alexander Graham Bell said,



If you never take action, because you are too stuck in stressed overwhelm, you will not be a success in your career.



Fourth, stress can lead to apathy.


This is another response to stress and overwhelm - to stop caring about your work, and either do the bare minimum to get by or give up completely.


It is completely understandable when you feel like you can’t cope to withdraw, as an act of self-preservation.


But equally understandably, it is the death-knell to your career.


No-one wants an employee who doesn’t care…