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"Every office has (at least) one -- the colleague who is always walking fast, finishing other people's sentences and racing from meeting to meeting while fielding email, texts and voice mail on multiple devices. That person can appear very important," writes Sue Shellenbarger. "They may not know it, but they're usually causing secondhand stress."
Shellenbarger spoke with stress-management consultants, open-office architects, leadership coaches, and salesmen. All told her the same thing: workers are rushing more than ever now, and in the process, they're driving each other crazy.
Stress Is Contagious
Think about the last time you spoke with someone who was having a minor meltdown, either at work or in your personal life. After a few minutes of listening to them speak so rapidly, they sounded like Alvin and/or the Chipmunks, you were probably starting to feel a little stressed out yourself. This goes double for a work situation, where you're likely to have some sort of interest in the topic that's making your co-worker hyper.
No One Wants to Be the Slow Mover in the Office
If one person is rushing around, everyone else looks slower by comparison. This is great for the more deliberate worker when Mr. Busy spills his coffee all over his keyboard while typing a mile a minute and jawing with his neighbor, but not so great when the boss emerges from his day of meetings and sees only one person -- the person who's making the most noise.
The economy might be getting better, but it's not getting better fast enough to allay our fears of being on the layoff list.
The Bottom Line
No one can do more than one thing at a time, and do it well. Before you give in to the temptation to overbook yourself at work, remember that results are more important than being the most visibly overworked person. In fact, you might get credit for your cool head and ability to prioritize.
Tell Us What You Think
Are your co-workers contributing to your stress? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.