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Have you been experiencing stress at work? It’s possible that you have had a number of discussions with your colleagues about how stressful work is. Pay close attention to these discussions. What do they revolve around? Deadlines, budget restraints, high demands, salaries? Other people at work… your bosses, colleagues, juniors stressing you out?What about “YOU”? We mean “YOU” as being a source of stress…

Doesn’t sound very good, isn’t it? After all why would you cause stress to yourself?

And yet you do! Actually most of us do!… Allow us to explain…

As people we carry a whole set of ideas, needs, memories, emotions and expectations to work. This is the stuff that is integral to our personalities. Naturally, the way we react to factors at work cannot be separate from all these needs, emotions and expectations that are a part of us.

This is actually good news: Since we are contributing to our stress, we can do something about it.

Now the ‘what and the how’ of this process. Here we will deal with one aspect about yourself that could contribute to and increase your stress at work: Being excessively progress oriented.

All of us work to progress. All of us want and seek to climb up the ladder at work. It makes sense too; it is healthy and necessary to want to grow in what you do.

However, the stressful bit comes in if you are unconsciously, unintentionally developing a mindset that involves over-focusing on progress. And this certainly is unhealthy and stressful. Are you finding yourself evaluating events of each day as signs of where you stand in the organization? Do you feel like you haven’t progressed or may not progress enough? If these are your frequent worries, you are on the right page. Let’s identify if an excessive focus on progress is why you are stressed at work.

Are you experiencing Stress at Work because of these factors?

– Giving Excessive Importance to Every Task at Work:

Do you find yourself worrying or being overly meticulous about every task you undertake? Some of us get into a pattern where we think that every aspect of a task/project would determine whether and at what rate we will move ahead in the organization. Slowly, the lines between the truly crucial aspects of work and the relatively less important ones start blurring in our minds. As a result, we get equally stressed about every aspect of the task. Moreover, this anxiety or ‘pressure’ stems more from within us than from external sources. We may become overly demanding of ourselves (and consequently others) regarding even minor imperfections or glitches. This is because such glitches or delays probably make you think that you would be considered as inadequate by others and therefore not worthy of progressing. Sooner or later, this mindset impacts our mental peace at work. Also importantly, it affects for the worse our relationships with co-workers and at times even superiors. If you find this happening to you, you need to look within and carefully introspect if a constant worry about whether you will progress well enough is at the root of these problems.

– Do you find it Difficult to Concentrate on Work for Fear of how it’ll turn out?

If you find that you are worrying about the end result almost constantly, so much so that it becomes difficult to work peacefully on the task at hand, this is another indication that you are focusing too much on whether you will progress. You worry about whether what you are doing is ‘good enough’ and will be liked by your superiors and co-workers. This worry is probably costing you a lack of focus at work. You may find yourself making trivial errors at work, forgetting details, or being ‘unable to think through’ obstructions. This could lead to a vicious cycle where you under perform and in turn are even more worried about whether you will progress. While lowered concentration at work could stem from several factors, if preoccupation with the end results of work lies at the root of it, then you are probably over focusing on progress.

– Do you give Excessive Importance to all Interaction with Superiors?

A person who is preoccupied with progress is likely to give importance to every thing his superior/boss says, or most passing remarks made by colleagues. Let’s assume your boss happened to praise your team mate’s work more than he praised yours. Or he found some areas of your work needing improvement. If you tend to worry immediately about how this would affect your appraisals or become very anxious about what the boss thinks of you, chances are that you are focusing too much on progress. Also check for your reactions when you are not able to contribute as much as the others in a particular meeting or when colleagues are very impressed by another team mate’s work. Such things keep happening at work. It is important to be sensitive to feedback and improve on your skills. However, if you tend to think negatively each time such things happen, chances are that you are preoccupied with progress.

Because we focus excessively on progress, we may feel disappointed at a good number of days at work, because nothing happened to ‘indicate’ that we will progress. Such an orientation does not work well for our mental health and job performance. It is very important to introspect and see how we can change this mindset. We will put up another post soon where we will look at what can be done to develop a balanced perspective about progress at work.

Post contributed by: Sadia Raval and Malini Krishnan

Malini is a Clinical Psychologist and  works with adolescents and young adults at Inner Space. 

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