Ten top tips for dealing with overwhelm at work


This week I had a chat with Matilda, the head of a UK department for a global financial services organisation. Like most of the women we talk to, she is a busy mum juggling two young kids and a husband who works full-time, with the added stress of no support network nearby.

She kindly shared her experience with me about how she has struggled with confidence at work (and this has been pointed out to her by her boss as an area for development), and how a recent experience of actually resigning has given her an opportunity to help others who may be faced with a similar situation.

Matilda had a mid-year performance review when she was just on the verge of achieving a big project in her role and had been through hell and back to get there. She was looking forward to having recognition of the hard work she’d done and achievements she’d made and was hoping to talk about how she could potentially get some more balance back in to her life, now that the project was over. Well, this didn’t happen! She was just asked ‘so how do you think you will achieve a rating above expectations this year?’   She left feeling totally overwhelmed again and spent the next few months in a really stressful place.

During the Christmas break, she had time to reflect on her life and what she could do to change things so that she wasn’t constantly in a struggle managing family life and a full-time job, and feeling like she couldn’t be her best doing either.

In the New Year she went back to work and handed in her resignation, much to her boss’s surprise. She had had enough and realised that it just couldn’t continue like this. She was very honest with her feedback and her boss was understanding but shocked to hear some of the things she was saying. They valued her so much that they didn’t accept her resignation and instead gave her the opportunity to go away and design a part-time role that she would be comfortable doing.  She has now done this and feels better about the prospect of some real change happening.

She now realises that a better approach might have been to sit down and have an honest conversation on a more regular basis rather than simply jumping in and resigning. Matilda shares her top tips for dealing with overwhelm and recommends not doing what she did, but coming up with a list of potential solutions to the problem and offering these as options to your organisation first, before resigning.

Ten top tips for dealing with overwhelm

  1. Don’t bottle it up, speak up! Have a regular face-to-face catch up where possible with your boss, so that small problems don’t escalate.
  2. Be clear about what your priorities are and communicate this to your team, so there is a clear understanding at all levels about what you are working on.Be aware of your work style and that of your colleagues, so that you can communicate in the best way possible.
  3. If there is someone else that can do the work, always delegate it - upwards or downwards.
  4. Keep communication channels open at all times and take responsibility for this.
  5. Seek external coaching to come up with specific strategies to deal with confidence issues.
  6. Don’t be afraid to challenge and say no (nicely!)
  7. Be honest about what you like about your job and what you don’t like. If things aren’t working, how could you change that. Think of the solutions rather than presenting the problems.
  8. Don’t get yourself into such a state about it – it is easier to go down to a part-time role in a job than finding something outside.
  9. Don’t let work creep into your family time. Does this piece of work really need to be done for the next day? Does that email need answering right now?

If any of this resonates with you and you would like any advice on having the confidence to speak up, do contact us on hello@myconfidencematters.com.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the official views of My Confidence Matters Ltd.


Joy Burnford