Why busy colleagues stress you out

Their behavior can be 'contagious,' experts say

Editor's note: This story was updated on November 1, 2017.

Experts say seeing co-workers rush around the office at a frenzied, frantic pace is not just annoying—it's downright stressful and leads to unproductivity, Sue Shellenbarger reports this week in the Wall Street Journal.

After getting a new job or a promotion, some people feel as though "they're not the smartest person in the room anymore" and should kick their work pace into overdrive, according to personal branding consultant William Arruda.

But going into "hair-on-fire mode" is contagious and can bring down the productivity of the entire team, he told the Journal.

If just one person is "rushing into meetings at the last minute and tapping a pencil through the entire session," Arruda says, "it changes the cadence for the entire group."

Moreover, open-plan offices help spread this stressed-out attitude to the team, says behavioral researcher Ben Jacobson. With the boss able to survey the entire team at a glance, "no one wants to be seen as the slowest-moving object in the solar system. You have to keep up with the Joneses—literally," Jacobson says.

To prevent employees from feeling driven to be frenzied, DePaul University's Robert Rubin advises that managers hold discussions intended "to inoculate the employee from catching the feeling" that rushing around is necessary to being seen as a good employee. A calm, unruffled work style is the mark of competency, experts say (Shellenbarger, Journal, 12/10).

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