Should you talk to your boss or HR if you’re overstressed at work?

Or should you just keep your problem to yourself?

Should you talk to your boss or HR if you’re overstressed at work?

Feeling some stress is a normal part of having a job, but regularly feeling overwhelmed and anxious isn’t. If you feel overstressed at work, you should probably talk to someone about it, but how do you know where to go? Should you approach your boss or stop by HR?

Here’s what some experts suggest.

Start by taking a second look at yourself

If you’re feeling overstressed, you might be imposing unneeded stress on yourself without realizing it. “Are the deadlines reasonable? Are your self-imposed deadlines appropriate? Create a realistic assessment of the situation you find yourself in. Be careful with your self-talk because it can become self-fulfilling (‘I’m so behind!’) and create unnecessary stress,” warns Amanda Mitchell, founder of Our Corporate Life, which offers a new system for reducing unnecessary workplace suffering.

Be prepared to get specific about the projects you feel most anxious about, Mitchell says.

Then speak to your supervisor

The next step is to be proactive and talk to your supervisor because she has control over your workload and deadlines. Mitchell suggests you “speak to your manager proactively, review your project list, and air your concern about meeting deadlines — or whatever your issues are. Engage him/her in the process so that if a deadline is missed or there is a hiccup on one of your projects they are aware of the reasons in advance.”

“My response if an employee feels stressed enough that something needs to be said, my suggestion is that it be directly with the boss — not HR — for two reasons,” says Pro Job Coach Senior Technical Recruiter Roxanne Williams. “First, the boss is the person who has the most direct impact on one's work responsibilities, and therefore is best able to consider if making a change makes sense. Second, going to HR instead of one's boss is like going behind his back; it's not giving him the benefit of the doubt that he would or could make a change to the work environment, and bringing HR into the conversation is almost forcing the situation.”

Talking to your manager shouldn’t be a huge challenge because you should already be talking to him on a regular basis. “If you have regular one-on-ones with your managers (you should, and they should allow for open and honest conversations like this), use the time to express your concerns and work together to find potential solutions to the issue,” says Kelly Geary, executive vice president of people at Headspring, a software solutions company in Austin, Texas.

HR should be your last stop

If talking to your manager doesn’t go well or doesn’t provide any relief, then you can take your concerns to HR. “If you're not having luck with your direct manager, or the issue is related to your manager, set up time to discuss with your HR team,” advises Geary. “They're a great neutral party that can provide helpful resources — like an seasoned, internal career coach — to tackle your stress and help you avoid total burnout.”

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