“I like work. It fascinates me. I sit and stare at it for hours.”
– Oscar Wilde
Have you ever seen a co-worker fly off the handle or lose it at work? I once saw two of my male co-workers get into a cubicle shoving match. After one particularly contentious meeting, another co-worker went straight to his desk and overturned a big stack of binders, flinging them in the air. Another co-worker, in the middle of a meeting, slammed his hand on the conference table screaming, “That’s why this company is so screwed up!”
These incidents came to mind after seeing the following Good Morning America clip. I had to laugh at 0:23 because every day at work, the copier makes this distinct beeping sound signaling that it’s out of order. These short beeps are followed by the usual sound of metal slamming, which means either one of two things – someone slamming the copier door or kicking it. I can’t tell.
As amusing as some of this grainy footage can be, which looks like something straight out of “The Office” or “Office Space,” workplace stress is real. Tight economy + workforce reductions = more work for the remaining staff. Violent confrontations, which were rarely seen ten years ago, are a common occurrence nowadays. It seems like every week you read, see or hear about some employee who completely loses it and tragically kills one or several of his co-workers.
So can you tell if you’re losing it? Here are five definite red flags:
Your fuse is growing increasingly short: I’m not talking about the “I’m hungry” kind of irritation but the everyday “everything is making me angry” kind of short fuse. Things that usually wouldn’t even register on your stress meter (like a meeting that runs late) is now causing your face to turn different shades of red. Computer problems that used to be minor inconveniences now want to make you slam your keyboard into your monitor (like in the GMA video).
You’re getting sick all of the time: You never had to see the doctor or pop over-the-counter medication. Now you’re having debilitating headaches and stomach pains you can’t explain. You have little to no energy. You have massive pain in your neck, shoulders and lower back. It feels like your entire body is rebelling against you.
You’re withdrawing: At work, you want to hide in your cubicle and avoid interacting with others. After work, you want to go straight home and crawl into bed. You avoid any kind of lengthy interaction. You have no desire or motivation to do anything. Activities you used to look forward to now seem like more work.
Your thoughts are turning violent: This is one of the key red flags that security experts tell you to look for: individuals who talk about violence. For me, a bad day simply means being in a bad mood…but it’s temporary. I can usually find something to laugh about or a co-worker usually steps in with something funny. But when you start thinking about physically harming others, that isn’t normal.
Indifference: Everything is ho-hum. Your one-time go-getter attitude has turned into, “I’ll get to it when I get to it.” Assignments that used to excite you now give you nausea. Deadlines and people counting on you to do their job now mean nothing. In other words, you just don’t care.
We all have our good and bad days at work. We’re all going to experience one or more of the above symptoms on any given day. There are times when I drive home thinking I need to find another job. Other times, I have this huge smile on my face from a day’s work. However, if you find yourself experiencing all of these symptoms on a day-to-day, consistent basis, it might be time to seek some help – or find another job. Life is too short to be driven crazy by your job. Take action now before you end up on one of these grainy You Tube workplace videos.
When was the last time you “lost it” at work?