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How to Avoid Walking on Eggshells at Work

When walking on eggshells at work, you’re unable to talk freely, afraid of pushing someone’s button, always moving consciously and can’t voice out what you really think.

There are some people who know when to be assertive and when to stay quiet. If the CEO or your supervisor is in a bad mood, then it’s obvious that it’s not the right time to get into a discussion with them. 

Knowing when to take a step back and being extra careful about stressing someone out are important traits that we should all learn about to be able to co-exist and live amicably with each other. This applies to both work and personal relationships.

Sadly, there are people who feel this way all the time. 

What does walking on eggshells mean?

To walk on eggshells means to be very careful about what you do or say around someone because they are easily offended, triggered, or upset. Think about eggshells and how fragile and sensitive they are, and when you walk on them, they have the tendency to crack. If you were to walk on eggshells, chances are, you would tread carefully as to not break them.

If you’re walking on eggshells at work this means that you’re feeling hesitation when you’re interacting with people. In relationships, this can be seen as you’re wary of your partner’s reaction so you wait on what they’ll do before you decide on your next action or word.

There are often toxic people who inspire this kind of behavior in others. This person may create an environment that makes other people feel tense and stressed out.

For example, there may be supervisors who act unprofessional or could not manage their anger well. They may have unpredictable nature that could make them terrifying to others.

The more timid person would feel overwhelmed, intimidated, or uncomfortable.

Why do you feel like you’re walking on eggshells?

Some people feel this way because the other person’s reaction tends to make them anxious. Like the example given above, timid or less assertive individuals fear being the stressor because the other party will react negatively when triggered. 

For example, a sensitive boss will rant nonstop or a partner tends to explode when stressed.

People who walk on eggshells are known to be careful because they want to avoid drama or heavy situations.

How do you stop feeling like you’re walking on eggshells

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Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Although there are companies that ensure a healthy working environment, there are those that can’t always control the work settings. There are individuals who take advantage of others and cause emotional stress to others to satisfy their own emotional shortcomings. 

If you feel like you’re walking on eggshells at work, then here are some possible solutions to your problem. 

Prepare yourself

No matter what it is that you’re going to face, whether it’s a meeting or presenting a report, you have to go in prepared.

You can start by thinking through what is most important for you to communicate within the context of your values and goals. What do you want them to understand. Knowing what’s most important gives you confidence in communicating it. In this case, about how working with her makes you feel.

Set a meeting

If there’s an issue that you wish to talk about, then make it a point to set an appointment to see your boss professionally, just the two of you. 

To lead into the conversation, ask for a meeting that will give them an opportunity to reflect on what is most important for you so that they can formulate a plan to move things forward. Suggest that working together might be more productive if everyone feels heard and valued.   

You may want to start by saying something like “Given where things are now, I’m feeling really uncomfortable at work.” 

Then share what specifically has been making you uncomfortable since it’s hard to address everything without specific examples. 

Don’t plan your next sentence until the person responds because this will help you discover what is most important to communicate within the context of his or her values and goals. Note that there are people who don’t like talking about these things, but it’s the best way to get to the heart of what’s really going on.


After your conversation, reflect on what went well and what didn’t go so well. Ask yourself how would you handle such a conversation in the future? 

Your awareness will help you to not walk on eggshells in future interactions with your boss or any other person who makes you feel uncomfortable at work. Remember: good relationships at work start with self-respect and an investment in maintaining them.

Assert yourself

Anytime a person makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s important to learn how to voice your concerns, feelings, and how to stand up for yourself.

If you’ve done nothing wrong, then there’s no reason to hide or be afraid. 

Being assertive is when you’re being truthful about how you feel without acting out of control or aggressively. This means tackling a problem without getting emotional.

When in a confrontational situation, remember to:

  • Maintain eye contact, stand up straight, and keep a poker face.
  • Never position yourself as the victim.
  • Avoid discussing negative emotions or feelings. Instead, focus on being straightforward and factual.

Know when to step back or quit

woman typing on her laptop
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

There will be times when the environment or an individual is just too toxic. Maybe it’s your boss or the president of the company that’s causing you distress. At times, raising the issue just fell on deaf ears. There are situations that are out of your hands. Quitting is not a sign of failure, especially if there’s nothing you can do to improve the situation at the moment. 

A job is just a job and the most important thing is your mental health. Work should make you thrive and flourish, not cause you distress and other mental health issues. It’s better to move on and have the courage to turn your back on things that don’t make you happy.

Avoid getting emotional

When dealing with someone who makes you feel uncomfortable or anxious, remember to stay calm and avoid acting out of frustration or anger.

You can’t control the other person but you can always control yourself and your emotions. Mind your manners, maintain your composure, and behave appropriately. 

Set boundaries

It’s crucial to set boundaries and know what you’re willing to tolerate. This way, you know when to detach yourself from a situation. 

For example, you like jokes, but when it comes to vulgar ones, you make it a point not to tolerate them.

Don’t feel guilty about setting boundaries or hurting other people’s feelings if it means compromising your values or emotions. 

If you want other people to value you, then you should value yourself first.


Being around toxic people can be draining and it can negatively affect your health. 

Do things outside of work that will make you feel better and that will help improve your health. Find things that could alleviate your stress like healthy exercise, a hobby that could help you take your head off of things, and incorporate a healthy diet into your lifestyle.

Put Yourself First

Life is too short to be walking on eggshells. You have other things to do than avoid or worry about offending a person. 

Note that feeling emotionally drained at work or unnecessarily stressed out can leave you feeling uninspired. Know that you always have a choice. Choose to regain your motivation and take care of yourself.

You can’t always control how other people will act but you can always control your own emotions and actions.

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