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Ask the Stress Doc -- Q & A

Stress Doc Q & A/Digital City--Washington, DC

1) When Night Shift Dumps on Day Shift

Q. I definitely have work-related stress. I used to be so calm and quiet in school. Now, I am talkative and one to say what I want to say without trouble. However, I deal with a lot of stress almost daily where I work. It just seems like that there isn't a day that goes by that someone or something makes me mad or very irritated. I work at a restaurant and it gets very old coming in day after day to a mess that was made the night before, such as messes on the table, carts, floor. I always say that they let the night shift get away with too much. I think it is mostly the people who work out front, more than the kitchen people who make the mess. I just wish for that one day the kitchen and the front employees could switch places...Then the front could see how much work is really involved preparing food and such.

A. Sounds like the day after day hassles and frustrations are starting to take a toll. First, I know restaurant work often produces the classic stress formula: a high demand/high responsibility work environment often accompanied by a low degree of control. Throw in a chronic, unfair dysfunctional pattern...well, third stage burnout may be lurking -- "Cynicism and Callousness." (Email for my "Four Stages of Burnout.")

I like your idea of reversing roles. Would management consider such an idea? But first of all, assuming your work stress assessment is objective, why are they tolerating the night shift being "stress carriers." While things are often a bit looser on the night shift, having the next shift clean up after them is unfair. This was a common problem when I was consulting at the 24/7 US Postal Service Processing & Distribution Plant. What helped is having a supervisor and a couple of employees from each shift sit down and hammer our responsibilities and realistic expectations each could live with. Again, I think it would be a kick even having just a few employees from each shift change places. I bet there would be more understanding and maybe an appreciation that the grass isn't always greener (or the kitchen isn't cleaner). Finally, if management doesn't want to address the problem...remember, get out before you burnout. It's a basic principle for...Practicing Safe Stress!

Mark Gorkin, LICSW, the Stress Doc, a psychotherapist and nationally recognized speaker, trainer, consultant and author, is also known as AOL's and the internet's "Online Psychohumorist" ™. Check out his USA Today Online "Hot Site" website - www.stressdoc.com  and his page on AOL/Online Psych, Keyword: Stress Doc

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