Let's face it! If you've worked a day in your life, you've probably heard (or experienced the covert implication related to) the phrase: "Bring your A-game" within the workplace! It's a phrase that connotes the importance of "giving it your all," being a team player at all times, and working until the job is done, whatever "the job" may be.
With each work day, each of us is forced to ask the question, "What will 'bringing my A-game' look like today?" And, for some of us, the response may involve working extended hours, missing lunch breaks, and making continual sacrifices on the home front.
Yet, is it possible that playing on the "B team" is actually more beneficial? Studies conducted via the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) suggest that work-related stress is rampant in today's society (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/99-101/). One of the major contributors to increased stress within the workplace is excessive work demand, what I will refer to as the non-stop "bring your A-game" messaging, regardless of one's existing workload or other environmental stressors.
An unfortunate result of falling prey to the "A-game" message is increased risk for physical and mental health issues, including headaches, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal upset, depression, and anxiety, to name a few. In addition to these outcomes, employees exposed to this message may also experience lower job satisfaction, increased burnout, and decreased work productivity. That's right ... bringing your "A-game" could actually harm you!
Now, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the impact of your own personality style and coping repertoire on the experience of work-related stress. Perhaps your tendency to approach tasks in a stringent and/or overly aggressive way contributes to your experience of stress on the job. Further, perhaps you do not readily ask for help or seek support outside of work to address the stress you experience at work. These variables, coupled with the "A-game" message, might also be harmful to you.
It's important to consider ways to balance your own approach to work with the "bring your A-game" mantra. Here are seven helpful tips ...
Be more self-aware ... that is, know yourself enough to know when you are experiencing physical and/or mental health issues related to the workplace. The questions to ask yourself here are, "What do I recognize in my body when I am under stress?" and "How does my mood change when I am stressed?" Noting initial physical and emotional changes can play a valuable role in reducing subsequent problems.
Manage your stress ... once you note how your body and mind respond to stress, create a stress management routine. For example, schedule in time to take a five-minute walk outside or stretch between activities throughout the work day. You will likely notice that the more you take preventive steps to offsetting your stress level, the less stressed you will feel within the workplace.
Prioritize ... make yourself a priority, perhaps for the first time! Create a daily "to do" list, prioritizing the most important tasks; then, establish a plan for leaving work at a specific time each day. One way to increase the likelihood of adhering to this is to share your plan with a colleague and/or friend, which will create accountability on your part. Another strategy may be to schedule time at the gym or dinner after work, which will increase your chances of leaving work on time.
Seek support ... share your experiences as a designated "A-team" member with trusted colleagues, as well as family and friends outside of work. Among trusted colleagues, you may learn that your experiences coincide with theirs, which can provide a bit of acknowledgment and relief on your part. Among family and friends, you could benefit from a listening ear, as well as have the opportunity to develop ideas for how to move forward within the workplace.
Co-strategize with your supervisor ... yes, you read that correctly. Communicate your concerns with your supervisor in a non-defensive and non-offensive manner. You may learn that your "A-game" expectations may drastically differ from hers/his. If both of your expectations actually align, this could also be an opportunity to co-create a more realistic and balanced plan for achieving work-related goals.
Be OK with occasional "B-team" performance ... if you're like me, conjuring up thoughts of the "B-team" reminds you of school-aged sports teams, riddled with individuals who were "just good enough" to participate. Trust me, I get it! Yet, when you weigh the physical, emotional, and interpersonal costs associated with occasional "good enough" performance with the ones associated with perpetual "A-team" perfection (or, the illusion of perfection), it becomes clear that choosing the former is SO much healthier for you!
Obtain additional help, as needed ... should you not be able to balance "A-team" performance with other personal and/or work-related stressors, do not be afraid to seek additional support. This might occur within your employee assistance program (EAP) or in the privacy of a therapist's or medical doctor's office. Remember, no work activity is so important that it is worth risking your physical and/or emotional well-being!