Q. People in my workplace are noticing all sorts of problems occurring faster and more frequently as we get toward end of the year. They're talking about the Mayan calendar and predictions about the end of the world. I've got enough stress without contemplating Armageddon. How do I handle people in my workplace acting like we're all heading for a disaster movie?
A. People in the workplace are highly vulnerable to anxiety because their survival these days pretty much depends on their paycheck. You can handle the current anxiety about the much discussed date December 21, 2012 by knowing the end of the Mayan calendar is just another version of anxiety in the workplace.
I always tell clients that if they are worried about the future, they should work at being prepared rather than scared. If an asteroid is going to hit the earth, there's not much you can do about that. However, paying down bills, having surplus water or food on hand, and updating your resume certainly can't hurt.
When your coworkers gather at the water cooler to discuss the end of the world, ask them what exactly they think is going to happen. Then ask what they think they could do to be ready for that. Peace of mind requires using fear to be proactive rather than allowing your worries to consume you.
Some people enjoy the drama of a current or future disaster. Disaster makes them feel like they've had a shot of espresso. Whether they worry about being fired, your company getting bought out or the end of the world, it all makes them feel alive.
If contemplating disaster makes somebody feel excited, then they probably won't take you up on your advice to prepare. You also don't have to participate in long conversations with them, which only raises your anxiety and does nothing to increase your readiness to survive adversity.
When you look around you at work, give everyone in your organization the credit that just getting out of bed is an act of courage these days. There is a great deal of challenge and uncertainty in and out of our workplaces. Dates like December's supposed doomsday seem to crystallize our natural concerns about the future.
Rather than waste the energy you could use to get a raise, get a promotion or achieve career goals, ask yourself what specifically you are worried about? It is OK to come up with ridiculous ideas. Then ask yourself, "Can I prepare for that?" If you can be proactive, do it! If you can't, make peace with your lack of omnipotence in the universe.
The last word(s)
Q. I am finding myself more and more depressed about my job and my future. Is there any way to try and lift my depression?
A. Yes. It's been said that depression is anger without enthusiasm. Ask yourself what is making you mad and use your anger to find solutions to those problems.
(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at http://www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)
Is end of 2012 workplace Armageddon?
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