How to Navigate the Office When You’re a Sensitive Soul
Working in an office environment can be tough. Between politics, personalities, and projects, your emotions can range from being overwhelmed to feeling personally attacked. And if you’re a sensitive soul, the latter may happen more often than you’d like.
Have an office problem? Use this guide to determine whether it’s a fast fix or if it’s time to move on to the next gig.
SITUATION: YOUR BOSS, SUPERVISOR, OR SENIOR COLLEAGUE CONTINUALLY CRITIQUES YOUR WORK.
Criticism is a part of life. If you’re receiving constructive critiques from your superior, take the criticism and learn from it—and most importantly, don’t take it personally. Even if you’ve been at your job for a while, there’s still always so much to learn and continually improve upon.
However, be watchful of your superior’s moves because people in power often like to abuse their position—they want to feel like they’re in control and will criticize just because they’re in charge. An easy way to determine if your boss is trying to be helpful or hurtful is to check the consistency of their critiques. Did they ask you to format a project proposal in a specific way only for them to change their mind the next day…and then go back to the original formatting the day after? It’s possible your boss is just unorganized, but more times than not, it’s a power move—and again, something you shouldn’t take personally.
HERE’S WHAT TO DO: IF YOU’RE RECEIVING DECONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM…
If the criticism crisscrosses all over the place and you can’t keep up with it, practice mindful meditation at the office. Honor your frustrations, take a few deep breaths, and make the changes your boss wants. At the end of the (work) day, your boss has the final say. Recognize that you are not the problem; your boss is simply working through his or her own internal struggles and it’s—unfortunately—being taken out on you.
SITUATION: YOU’RE RECEIVING PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE EMAILS, COMMUNICATIONS, OR BODY LANGUAGE FROM YOUR BOSS OR CO-WORKER.
Do you cringe any time you receive an email that says “friendly reminder”? Does your boss say, “you learned it in training” any time you complete a task incorrectly (even though you know you did not learn x, y, or z)? Most of the time your boss or co-worker is just looking to get the job done correctly so that they themselves do not get in trouble.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: IF YOU CAN’T SHAKE OFF THE PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE UNDERTONES…
If you have a gut feeling that it’s about more than just successfully completing a project, speak up (if you’re afraid or nervous to talk in person about this, an email will do!). Try saying something like this to your boss, “It looks like there’s a few points I need a refresher on. Can we set up a time to do a quick review so we’re on the same page?”
SITUATION: YOU’RE CONSTANTLY BEING CUT OFF IN MEETINGS.
Maybe Anna brings up a key point in a meeting, you wait for her to finish her thoughts, and then start to add on to her point, only to be cut off by Nathalie who says, “we need to stay on topic” and directs the meeting away from you. Maybe a co-worker simply cuts you off mid-sentence to share her own ideas.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: IF YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR VOICE ISN’T BEING HEARD…
If your co-worker keeps cutting you off, kindly say, “Sorry Stephanie, I wasn’t quite finished with my thought. Do you mind if I continue?” Her need to speak up right that very moment is more likely to do with the excitement she has for the project than a personal vendetta against you. If you have valuable information that needs attention to the group but there “just wasn’t enough time” to bring it up, the easiest fix is to send out an email after the meeting sharing your thoughts. However, that isn’t necessarily going to make you feel like a valued team member. If being cut off in meetings—or even conversations—continually happens, it may be worth sharing with your boss.
Ways to promote positivity in the work environment
Bringing together an anonymous group of people and forcing them to spend 40 plus hours a week with each other is weird, awkward, and, in some cases, cruel. If you really enjoy your job, besides the emotional clutter, practice promoting positivity throughout your workday. Rather than take something personally, breathe in deeply for a moment or two, and respond with kindness. Remember, everyone is on his or her own path to enlightenment, and some are farther along than others. Cut your co-workers some slack.
If your co-worker is constantly throwing you shade just think what it must be like to be her (dealing with her own problems) for her to feel the need to take it out on you. Recognizing that your co-workers are in their own world, with their own issues and perceptions will help keep you sane in trying times.
But this doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. From one sensitive person to another, it’s super easy to perceive an interaction to be completely opposite of what it truly was, especially if you have a pre-determined view of your co-worker in question. Really try to dig deep down to the root of the emotion to determine whether it’s something you need to work on or if it is an external factor.
Knowing when you should consider another position or company
While these practices might help some, it is important to tune in to your gut and instinct feelings. Sure, maybe you perceive passive aggression when it’s really not there. Will you be able to work out your perceptions in the next couple of months? If not, you may want to move on to the next job. The same goes if you are constantly being put down or disrespected, even after initiating thoughtful conversation to clear up any misinterpretations.
The most important consideration should be your well-being. Regardless of what an experience really looks like, it only matters how it makes you feel. If you’re constantly stressed, anxious and on-edge, it’s time to do something about it. There’s only ever going to be one of you in this world and you are in charge of how your time looks. So don’t waste it on negative feelings and undeserving people. It’s time to recognize your worth.