Keeping Your Cool & Diffusing Stress when Your Boss Is Under Pressure


It happens to the best of us — we get overwhelmed with work, life, and situations we have no control over. It’s called stress.

So what happens when your boss catches the fever, and you’re in the line of fire? I’m an Assistant to multiple bosses, and they all get frazzled from time to time. Here are some methods I use to help them (and the whole office) when they’re weighed down with stress.

Give Them Space

Your boss is stressed out for a reason. Their minds are cluttered with agendas, projects, meetings, difficult decisions, and a shortage of time. Being respectful of their space will not only allow them to deal with their stress, but it will also keep you out of the line of fire.

Ask Only Necessary Questions

Before you consult with a stressed-out boss, ask yourself, “Am I blocked, needing input before I can proceed?” Determine the urgency of your question. Is there someone else who can help you?

I will usually write down questions throughout the day and have them ready for when I meet with them at our morning Prioritization meeting.

Ask Them What Their Stress Level Is

If it appears that your boss is stressed, confirm it by asking them what their stress level is. It not only gives them the opportunity to get something off their chest, but it keeps you informed to act accordingly.

If their stress level is high, ask if there’s anything you can do to help. This is also important to discourage any stories you are beginning to tell yourself, if you tend to assume that your boss’s stress is caused by something you did, when it really isn’t the case.

Give Them Your Undivided Attention

Silence can be a sign of stress, so when they do talk to you, make sure you give them your undivided attention. It’s not only important to be quick to help them with their needs, but it also shows that you care. If they are venting, make sure you interpret whether they want a problem solved or if they just need to get something off their chest.

Compliment Them

Everyone loves a compliment! It also encourages positivity. Being a boss can be a thankless task, they need positive feedback too, whether it’s, “You did a great job with that customer!” or “You handled that situation great! Good Job!” There’s never a wrong time to say something nice.

Don’t Allow Yourself to Get Offended Easily

It’s easy to get offended when your boss is stressed. Their actions may range from being closed off and distant to argumentative and short tempered. Adding to their stress with negative reactions isn’t going to help them get back to normal any sooner.

This doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to be insulted or degraded. If they’re unaware that their actions bother you or is on the border of unacceptable, ask to schedule time to talk to them about it.

Dealing with a stressed-out boss can be discouraging as well as infectious. Making an effort to ease the pain of their stresses will not only help prevent you from catching the fever but it will also be appreciated by the person who has a say in your future with the company.

What are some good tips you use when dealing with a stressed out boss?