I have a great manager. We are two Europeans working for an aggressive, fast paced organisation from the US. He is under great pressure because of his job and internal politics. I am under great pressure because of my job and internal politics. We work well together, but the situation is heavy - by default.

He has been giving me some harsh coaching, and some of it has been the results of other managers taking a shot at him.

I am very stressed and can't rest well, my productivity dropped. My manager is getting more and more direct and aggressive. I like him, but my health is being affected. If I push back on his requests or "coaching", he might think I am not good enough or that I am failing to receive his "coaching". I like my job, my colleagues and my manager, but I don't know how to ease the tension without my manager getting even more stressed or pissed off.

How to help my manager understand I am very stressed (as opposed to just telling him that I am very stressed)?

  • 9
    Why do you not want to just tell him?
    – Erik
    Oct 9, 2020 at 11:16
  • 8
    he needs to not only hear it, but understand it
    – user38290
    Oct 9, 2020 at 11:40
  • 8
    Why do you believe he won't understand "I'm very stressed"? It seems pretty clear to me what that means. Oct 9, 2020 at 11:42
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    Rather than talk about understanding, can you clarify what you expect from your manager? Do you need certain accommodations? Reduced workload? Is it simply to make sure that he knows you're struggling with things right now and your work might be below your normal standard and you're worried he won't know why / jump to conclusions? Do you want to turn it into a performance review to ensure you're on the same page about what you can and can't deliver and what his expectations are?
    – Lilienthal
    Oct 9, 2020 at 12:25
  • 3
    This subject is so incredibly tied to culture that you should be very wary of accepting any advice without at least providing a location tag. The advice I would give a Dutch person in this situation would probably get someone from the US or Japan fired or demoted. In the abstract this problem might be universal but the way it ties to the workplace is very, very specific. In fact, I would give said Dutch person different advice depending on them being in accountancy or tech for example.
    – Douwe
    Oct 10, 2020 at 11:41

4 Answers 4


How to help my manager understand I am very stressed ?

Why? What do you expect your manager to do after he "understands"?

Chances are your manager knows quite well that you are stressed (and he is too). But that doesn't really help until it results in some specific action or changes. Start thinking about what do you want/need these changes or actions to be and then ask for them directly. You can use your stress level as motivation/justification but it's only a means to an end.

I am under great pressure because of my day job and internal politics.

It sounds that this is the corporate culture and unlikely to change. Is that what you long-term want? Some people thrive on this, others are miserable. If you are generally in the first category and just need a break, that this is probably salvagable. If you are not ok with long-term high pressure environment, you may have to look elsewhere.


There are in the end two approaches to remove stress: Either you remove the cause of the stress. If you can't, you can remove your reaction to the causes. As in "don't care about it".

If you are under stress because your manager is in competition with another department - don't care whether he wins or loses. If a customer is complaining - so sad, don't care beyond playing the world's saddest song on the world's tiniest violin for him. Whatever happens, it's not your problem unless you make it your problem.

  • 5
    @nick012000 I would vote this down if I could downvote a comment. You are not seriously suggesting that? Beginning to drink because of stress is the beginning of not a great friendship but of a great downfall. If it was a joke, it is not a good one. Oct 10, 2020 at 12:28
  • @CaptainEmacs Yes, I'm serious. It's not a very good way to deal with stress, but it seems to work for a lot of people.
    – nick012000
    Oct 10, 2020 at 14:34
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    @nick012000 Seems to work? If it were not addictive, I would not argue with this. However, it is. Whoever follows your advice will pay with a major risk to your future to soothe a present issue. It's very bad advice. It is very difficult to break an addiction, and requires a huge amount of willpower, better not to start going that route at all. This site should help people, not rope them into a Mephistophelian deal. Oct 10, 2020 at 14:37
  • Alcohol is not a medication. Plus, there's abundant research showing alcohol increases stress over time, with any relief being both short-lived and providing diminished returns due to increased tolerance. Finally, getting constantly drunk/hangover at work is grounds for termination in basically any jurisdiction.
    – Ramon Melo
    Oct 11, 2020 at 5:14

How to help my manager understand I am very stressed

You do not "help" him understand anything. You just need to organize a face-to-face meeting with him, and explain your point of view. Together, you might be able to find a way out of the situation.

Just tell him what you told us here.

(as opposed to just telling him that I am very stressed)

"just telling" is, most of the times, the best way to solve problems, in any situation. I am curious, why do you want to avoid "just telling"?

Kind heads-up: the way you formulated the question might sound kind of aggressive / insulting. It implies that you already had the discussion with the manager several times, but he still thinks you are the most relaxed and bored person on the planet.

(I do not feel aggressed or offended, do not worry)

  • 3
    why do you want to avoid "just telling"? because she does not want to be sacked. Oct 9, 2020 at 21:16
  • I am confused. How can she get sacked by her manager, if you have a private discussion with her? Her manager will know nothing of it.
    – virolino
    Oct 12, 2020 at 5:42

You don't.

You take steps to alleviate your stress. If it is at the point where it is affecting your job, you have an untreated medical condition, and the responsibility for treating it is on you.

Seek the help of a professional, and follow his instructions. It is important that you do this before you take any other action, including going to HR because HR IS NOT YOUR FRIEND Once you have medical documentation, then proceed.

Then speak to HR and bring documentation of any prescribed treatment. This protects you because now it is a medical issue and the laws of your state/nation may protect you, and if HR takes any action, it cannot violate those laws. If you have a good relationship with your manager, you can then mention that you are having problems you are getting treatment for, but no more detail.

  • 1
    +1 for “get help”, but -1 for the idea the employer has no role here. If he were to have an evidenced medical condition, in most jurisdictions the employer would have an obligation to make “reasonable accommodations”. Oct 9, 2020 at 16:41
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    @JoeStevens In order to get "reasonable accommodations", you fist need extensive medical documentation. Then, you need to be careful as the definition of "reasonable" is vague and a good lawyer can have a field day with it. Also, you still have to be able to do your job. Example: There is no reasonable accommodation a quadriplegic can get to operate a jack-hammer. You need to assume that your job will be of ZERO help. That way if they are of no help, you are prepared, and if they are of help, you will still be prepared. Oct 9, 2020 at 17:03
  • 1
    @JoeStevens I am hearing impaired and autistic, I have been through this. Oct 9, 2020 at 17:03

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