It’s human nature to analyze situations. At the end of the day, we all want to survive (both literally and figuratively), and we turn to our brains to figure out how to do that when things get tricky.
However, sometimes analyzing a simple scenario quickly turns into an overanalyzing nightmare—and if you’re trying to figure out a workplace issue, overthinking it can have hazardous effects on your career. Co-workers might put turned off by the anxiety that ensues from your worrying, or you might make the wrong decision or drop the ball on a project because you’ve second guessed yourself.
So, how can you stop? Here are three common workplace issues and how to deal if you find yourself way overanalyzing them.
1. A Colleague Is Rude to You
Whether it’s a co-worker or your boss, at some point in your career, someone won’t be nice to you in the office, and it can really leave you feeling uncertain. Is he actually unhappy with you, or is he just having a bad day? Should you confront her or let it go? Your decision could affect your relationship with that person.
The first step, as with any sensitive situation, is not to panic. If your colleague just made a comment or said something rude one time, it was probably just an off statement. Also take note if that person is acting out toward other people in the office. If so? Remind your overly active brain that the situation likely has nothing to do with you, and spend that mental energy on something else.
If, however, you notice the trend continuing and that person seems to be singling you out, it’s time to take action. Fact is, trying to figure out what someone else is thinking in your head (or worse, with another colleague over drinks) does nothing but add to the already tense situation—and one short conversation can do wonders to defuse it. Ask the offending co-worker for a quick walk or coffee meeting to mention your concerns (even a, “How are you feeling? You seem a little off,” could do the trick).
2. You Think You’re Going to Be Fired or Promoted
When you think you’re about to move up the food chain or be taken out of it, it’s easy to want to analyze every single cue that comes your way. Your boss mentioned the word “fired” and looked in your direction? Uh oh. A colleague whispered that someone in your department was getting promoted? Yay—maybe?
The easiest way to handle this situation is to keep doing whatever it is you’re doing. Even if something big is on the horizon, reading into every interaction typically only leads to disappointment (“I got her coffee and she didn’t offer me a promotion!”). Hang tight and keep doing your job right. If you’re supposed to go somewhere else, someone will tell you.
3. You Had an Email Mishap
Whether your important client memo included a typo or you sent a message to the totally wrong person, one of the most common things to overanalyze is email. After all, you probably spend all day in your inbox.
First off, to avoid future email issues, I highly recommend going to the “Labs” tab of your Gmail settings and enabling the “Undo Send” option so that you can cancel messages if you notice a problem with your email right after the fact. That will eliminate half of the stress right there.
On top of that, if you think your email contained a serious issue, it’s always better to confront it head-on in a quick follow-up email (and preferably in-person if it’s harmful) rather than waiting it out. (Oh, but definitely don’t lose sleep over a typo. It happens.)
Overall, keeping yourself from overanalyzing is understanding when it’s appropriate to step in and when you just have to let things go. If you’re really not sure, ask a trusted friend or colleague for some advice. But at the end of the day, here’s something comforting: Often, the only person who’s aware that you’ve “messed up” is you.
Photo of people thinking courtesy of Shutterstock.