How An Email Becomes A Life Or Death Situation

You’re sitting in your cubicle at work and you get an email from your boss asking you if you [insert task pertinent to your line of work here]. Your heart plummets into your stomach. Your worst fears are confirmed. You fucked up. You start to sweat. shake, hyperventilate. You briefly consider leaving everything you know behind and joining one of those alternative communities where you can live off the grid and hunt for your own food just so you don’t have to write back to your boss and admit, NO, you have not yet finished the [insert task pertinent to your line of work here]. There’s a part of your rational mind that recognizes, YES, your reaction is insane because this is a one-sentence email we’re talking about here. Maybe your boss’ tone wasn’t meant to be accusatory/condescending/condemning/shaming/the pre-cursor to getting fired. You know that your mother would tell you that you’re overreacting and need to pull yourself together. Still, in that moment you’re pretty sure that this email is the make-it-or-break-it moment of your entire life. And it’s only 10:30 a.m. on a Monday. It’s going to be a loooong week. Sound familiar? 

It might, because according to new research, stress in the workplace is so intense that it’s making us feel like our lives are at risk (whether or not we work in a profession where it actually might be). University of Copenhagen psychologist Malene Friis Andersen, who did extensive research on work-related stress,  found that job performance and self-worth have become precariously intertwined for so many people that it’s making the office a place of “existential threat.”

“Some reach what may seem like an obvious conclusion; that, in our modern world, the saber-toothed tiger is our boss or the deadlines that we have to meet. If you have an unpleasant boss, he or she will rarely go so far as to kill you. Yet work becomes a question of life or death to the people who get caught up in stress,” explains Andersen. In addition, Anderson found that perfectionism is a symptom of being overworked, not a pre-existing condition. And to make matters worse, that the way in which employers measure performance only serve to heighten our anxiety and insecurity because the “parameters for success become too narrow.”

I’ve had a boss who I feared might actually kill me over a typo, but that’s another story. (Not you, Amelia!) Seriously though, what are we to do about this no-win situation? I guess we’ll have to read Andersen’s book, New Perspectives On Work-Related Stress. In the meantime, one of those off-the-grid communes might not be such a bad idea.  [Daily Mail UK]

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