Work Stress

I typically post on Mondays, but this week I’m a day late due to spending the weekend working one of the biggest festivals in my county. Although preparations for this festival start months in advance, those of us setting up the grounds have designated the two weeks before and the one week after as Hell Weeks 1, 2, and 3. Hell Week 1 is usually devoted to candy production and product packaging. Hell Week 2 consists of cleaning, setup, and the festival itself. And Hell Week 3 is breakdown, cleaning, and return of rental equipment. It’s a tiresome affair and includes overtime for everyone. (I logged over 30 hours of overtime this year, and that’s relatively mild.) We have a core group of volunteers who have devoted themselves to this festival for years, and we couldn’t hold this event without them. But the bulk of the work still falls on the paid staff.

Our boss really doesn’t know how to manage people well. His temper has a tendency to get away from him when he’s frustrated, and the paid staff suffers the worst of it. During Hell Weeks 1 and 2, the safest place to be on the festival grounds is whichever work area is farthest from him. For the most part, he knows better than to yell at the volunteers.

Outside of festival season is better only because the frequency of our boss’s frustration lessens. He can still have a temper, is inconsistent with policies, and has a tendency to try and micromanage things he has no business meddling in. This has contributed to the loss of numerous employees over the years, both from the field crew and from office staff. Even if I know my friends are looking for work, I don’t tell them when we have job openings. I’m always on the lookout for other employment opportunities, but it’s hard to give up two linear miles of outdoor workspace for a desk job.

If you find yourself in a similar position with a stressful work environment, I encourage you to get out when you can. Constant stress has a negative effect on a person’s health, and all of us have enough frustrations in our lives without keeping unnecessary stressors around. When considering a new job, talk to the employees in private if at all possible and find out what the social environment is like. Even if a position seems like it should be your dream job, with the wrong people on staff, it can quickly turn into torture. We spend too much of our lives on the job to work for someone or with others who make us miserable.


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