Work stress due to inconsistency. Are the goalposts constantly shifting on you? Do you feel baffled and frustrated about what is expected of you? Are you forever doing work and then having to re-do it, or find it was to no effect, because priorities have been changed on you yet again?

Inconsistency at work can be a massive source of stress. Most people love to work within clearly defined roles and boundaries – if these are not clear it can be massively frustrating. Not least because not only do people like to have a clear idea of what they are doing, but most people like to feel they have produced something at work. How did you feel the last time you spent weeks working on something that was never used? You got paid the same, but it still mattered, didn’t it? We don’t just work for money.

There are, of course, a few rare souls who thrive in chaos and enjoy navigating complexity, but if that if you, then this situation is unlikely to cause you stress at work, so this article is not for you!

So, back to basics. In what way are things not clear at work? Have they always been like this, or is it a recent change? Is the change blatantly transitional (there are lots of communications about the period of change), or does change look more ongoing? Is it down to one new person? When did they start, and what triggered it?

What is consistent? Can you map out over the past 2 – 3 months when you have felt like this, and why, and when you haven’t, and why? What are the themes and patterns?

Now, (deep breath – this is the hard bit) what could you have done differently to help the situation? Yes, you – I know you did not cause it, but you need to start with yourself.

Were you clear on the work you were being given? Was it documented or all verbal? Could you have done anything to get a clearer requirement, or force it to be documented? Were there some unspoken assumptions? For example, you were given a task to write a report and you did, but it was a really lengthy, detailed report, and they person you gave it to hated it, because they wanted three PowerPoint slides. You feel aggrieved, because you feel your work is better than what they wanted, but you didn’t clarify the format the report was required in.

Did you ask when given the task, about all aspects – who, when, how, etc?

Another problem is meetings. There are ever more meetings, but many are run very badly. Do you take your own notes in meetings? Do you always note your own actions, or are you always relying on others? In your meetings, is it always clear what has been concluded, what is happening next, and who is doing it? If not, can you be the one to get your organisation into some good habits about always being clear on these things. Where does it go from here?

A lot of time is wasted because the outcomes and next steps are not made explicit. Things move on, everyone forgets and no one is sure what was agreed. Then the blame game starts. Nip this in the bud and at the end of a meeting say, “ so just to clarify….” and list who is doing what “does everyone agree?” This is usually useful to everyone, even if you are not officially running the meetings.

Did you find this article useful? How is inconsistency at work foiling you? Leave a comment below, and let me know.

Till next time!