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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Stressful Work Environments

Dear Sue: I work for a company that believes that keeping a person under stress will make them work harder. People come and go with that company weekly. I have been employed there for five years and I can tell I've turned into a colder, tougher person. I follow all the rules, never miss work, and I have a top quality work performance, with one exception -- I forgot to initial some paperwork I completed, and was severely reprimanded. Considering my track record, I don't think I deserved the harsh criticism. My supervisor said that they are cracking down on people and going to be even stricter in their policies.

My doctor told me at my last appointment that I should change my lifestyle and my job. I think it would be just as stressful to start over in a job, and I don't want to lose my benefits. What do you suggest I do? 

- Stressed     

Sue Says: I understand your dilemma and your desire to take the path that will cause you the least amount of additional stress. However, the fact that your doctor has suggested you change your lifestyle and look for another job leads me to believe that your situation at work is taking a bigger toll on you than you realize. No job and no benefit package can be worth losing your health over.

If you really want to stay, you will need to make some adjustments, and your doctor's orders may help you. Have you ever talked with anyone in your company about the stressful environment? Although you may not see the changes you want, it is worth a try to talk with others in position of authority and to come up with suggestions about ways to reduce the stressful environment.

Dear Sue: My supervisor is very difficult to deal with. On several occasions I've approached him about his manner, but haven't seen much change. As a consequence, I am being singled out and made an example of his authority. Every encounter with him results in a conflict/intimidation battle.

I am feeling the effects with stronger demands. I am older and really like my job and the challenges it affords, but the constant badgering is too much to bear. 

- Need help     

Sue Says: Your supervisor sounds more than difficult to deal with; he sounds as though he is headed for trouble if he is singling you out and treating you differently than the others.

I applaud you for taking a stand and approaching him about his behavior toward you, but since you haven't gotten results, you may need to do more. You may want to involve his supervisor or talk with your human resources department.

You don't deserve this type of treatment and don't have to tolerate it. Do what you need to do to receive fair and equal treatment.

Dear Sue: I am single and childless, and have reason to believe that some women (especially managers) are jealous of me because of my status.

Other women seem to think the single ladies get all of the attention, and I have found it difficult to make friends with them. How should I deal with this? 

- Slighted     

Sue Says: You really have no control over what other people think of you. Although some women may be jealous of your status, I have a feeling there is more going on than you realize. If you find it difficult to be friends with some of your married coworkers, it may be because you have less in common with them, or due to the manner in which you knowingly or unknowingly flaunt your status.

Make an effort to find some common ground with your coworkers, and try to divert some of the attention you are getting by focusing on others. Take an honest inventory of yourself and determine ways to deter the jealousy and foster a more comfortable, friendly work environment.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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