How to reduce stress at work and minimize marketing “emergencies”

Estimated read time: 8 minutes

Work can be stressful and marketing and communication certainly see their fair share of stressful days. Lean Data OpsStar Sara McNamara shared that marketers rank themselves a 7 of out 10 when it comes to how stressed they are. A big part of the stress comes from that everything is an emergency.

Does it really have to be that way? I would say: No! Let’s talk with the experts to see how we can change the unhappiness and constant emergencies.

Patti Seda, talent consultant and author of “Discovering Job Joy,” was on the Business Storytelling Podcast that it’s unlikely that all stress will disappear from jobs:There are ways to minimize stress and also emergencies.

Why are people stressed and unhappy anyway?

Unhappiness happens over time. People may not even realize that it has until they hit a wall or take real time to reflect. Patti mentioned that she asks people about the last time they felt joy at work. Sometimes it takes a while to pinpoint a time or that time was a ways ago.

What has happened? Companies evolve. We try to evolve with them and sometimes end up in roles that aren’t the best fit for us. As Patti said, a duck might be a good swimmer but not a good runner, even though they can run. Ending up in the wrong roles is a reality for unhappiness.

Sometimes people are unhappy because of bad leadership or even mean bosses or coworkers.

Why are so many marketing projects emergencies?

Some marketing projects certainly can be emergencies. Something happens and we need a response or make a decision now! That’s urgent, but other times emergencies are somewhat – dare I say – fabricated or imposed by personal preference.

Here’s how that often looks:

One person in the company needs help with a project or something done.  Because it’s currently their top priority it’s easy to think it’s also everyone else’s – in this case the marketing team’s – priority. I use the term marketing team to encompass marketing, communications, PR, creative, content, etc.

It’s also easy to underestimate how long something actually takes to create.  That blog post of 1,500 words should take just 20 minutes, right? Nope. Currently, according to Orbit Media people spend over 3 hours on blog posts.

Other times, the requester may just not have thought about other people’s time.

Nonetheless there are ways all of us can make work more joy and also drive performance that way.

Understanding yourself

Understanding ourselves can be harder than it sounds. Taking assessments can help us understand our strengths and weaknesses. For example, I’ve taken the Predictive Index and my results are:

”Christoph, you are a maverick. Mavericks are out-of-the box thinkers and tend to be undaunted by failure. They are natural-born leaders who challenge the status quo and prefer to do things their own way. Highlights: “Innovative Goal-oriented Visionary Flexible”

Predictive index

These assessments can help us understand how we function. There are others out there as well that you can consider using. My favorite personal example form my own assessment is how I manage my delegation and follow-up. The index says:

delegates with loose follow-up

That could be taken as that I don’t delegate well at its worst. But really what it means is  that when there’s no process, I will follow-up when I think of it. That could be 2 in the morning.

When there’s a system in place for follow-up – like through Basecamp or other such tools, I just follow that. It’s loose when there’s no system.

Patti mentioned  that understanding yourself – through an assessment – helps. Then share your results with your team mates in a collaborative environment to work better together.

Understanding others

Sharing your personality results with others can take some trust between people involved. In fact, many companies that do assessments never even share the results with employees. The bosses look at them and that’s it.

Some – maybe many – of those traits assessments share likely aren’t news to other people anyway. But sharing the results and talking openly about them can help the team move forward.

Of course it’s a two-way street and does require everyone to participate correctly.

People in the right roles

Not everyone can or should be a manager and that’s okay. An easy way to reduce stress is to have the right people in the right roles, a topic discussed at length in my Content Performance Culture book.

Some people strive for official promotions because that’s how they can quickly increase their salaries. That might seem like a good decision but it can turn out to be bad one if that role is out of a person’s comfort zone or skill set area, said Patti.

”I’ve found that the money usually follows,” said Patti about roles that are a fit. “You might not make what the CEO or director make.”

(Links to books are affiliate links, meaning I get a cut if you buy via these links).

Workflow agreement

Especially when it comes to “everything being an emergency” sometimes the problem is that there’s no agreement on a workflow.

  • Here’s step 1
  • Step 2
  • Step 3

Then assign necessary times to each. If the design of an infographic  takes eight hours, make sure people know that. Certainly emergencies happen – especially when we are responding to something in a never-off news cycle. In general, though, a lot of content and marketing strategy does not need to be treated like a house fire.

Marketing Specialist and “Instagram for Dummies” Author Corey Walker said teams can create editorial calendars where they agree upon what gets produced at certain times and when it publishes.

”Teams can start with a 12-month calendar filling in obvious known things, then adding to it as they go. Taking the time to have a monthly review about what is needed that next month saves a team from having an emergency when no one has thought out what to post that day or week.”

Read next: How to get on a schedule 

Understanding how to ask questions

A recent blog post shared how to ask questions in content marketing interviews for content. The art of questioning also matters to reduce stress and marketing emergencies. When somebody comes with a question, it’s okay to collaboratively ask questions:

  • What are we trying to accomplish with this project?
  • How soon do you need this? It’s okay to look at all work currently in process.
  • Would it be okay if I get you a draft by <insert a reasonable place in time>
  • Etc.

It’s also okay to remember to not embrace the people pushing for “their emergencies” as your emergency. Don’t let it be a trigger point to get stressed. Easier said than done, I know. Consider their urgency but don’t let it push you into unnecessary stress.

I’m a big fan of blocking out time for certain projects as well on my calendar to make this process easier to oversee. You can even say: “I can work on it at that time. Does that work?” Or pull in a team member.

Intuition to reduce stress

Using your intuition can help you make decisions while also trying to figure out what actually needs attention now and what can wait. Sunil Godse, president of Intuitionology, joined me on the Business Storytelling Podcast to talk about the topic.

He mentioned four areas where you can use intuition, which is often referred to as “gut instinct:”

  • Creative
  • Relational
  • Experiential
  • Situational

There are so many things that can be measured today.  In fact, Content Performance Culture we need to measure toward our goals. But not everything is measurable and sometimes, as Sunil explained, we have to make intuitive decisions agains what the data is telling us.

Read the situation right, try to move forward with what seems to be the right way to go.


Being happy in a role – the right one – relies on many factors.

  • Do we have the right skills?
  • Is the company the right fit?
  • Are bosses and coworkers the right fit?
  • Is the environment truly collaborative?
  • Are we being heard?
  • Are we hearing people correctly?

When we can align them all, we can find joy at work and drive performance. Minimizing emergencies also is easier when we are working in the right fit. Think of it this way: When the people creating the emergencies or are just bossy to be bossy, employees won’t enjoy it and performance can lack too.

Sunil put it this way: When people are just bossy to be on a power trip, somebody higher up needs to step in.

But something to remember: