Manage Stress at Work

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended correspondence course in management. You can dip into it as you go, or you can follow the course, right from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


As a manager, you have two stress management responsibilities:

  1. To manage your own stress levels
  2. To manage the environment to avoid subjecting your team members to inappropriate levels of stress

Let’s scamper through the basics.

Exercise 1: How to spot the signs of stress in your team?

In your notebook, make a list of all of the outward signs that suggest that a team member may be experiencing stress.  These are the things you could observe in their demeanour, appearance and behaviour.

Part of your responsibility is to monitor your team’s collective performance.  What if stress were an endemic problem?  What would be the indicators and behaviours that would signal this problem? Write these in your notebook.

For some examples, click here.

Reducing Stress

To understand stress, you need to focus on one thing: control.  We feel stressed when we do not feel we have enough control in our lives.  Therefore, to reduce stress, we must increase control.

Supporting your team

Look for places where stressed team members feel robbed of control.  Where you can, restore some of their control.  Where that is not possible, help them to find other areas where they can take control.

Points of Control

The five key points of control for all of us are:

  1. Our environment
    How can you or your team members make changes to the environment to feel a greater sense of control.  Often, very little things are enough.  Personalisation is an important driver.
  2. Our use of time
    Where can you use your time more effectively (you may want to look at the time management tips in an earlier blog)?  How can you give team members more control over the way they use their time to get their work done.  Autonomy is another important driver.
  3. Our physical response to stressors
    Simple choices like what to eat, getting enough exercise and prioritising rest and relaxation will make a big difference to stress levels.  Poor physical health will reduce our resilience to a stress response.
  4. Our mental response to stressors
    ’there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’
    Hamlet was spot on when he understood that it is the meaning we attach to events that determines our response to them: elation, contentment, boredom, or stress for example.  When feeling stressed, take control of your mental response and start focusing on what opportunities there are, what resources you have, and what there is to be grateful for.
  5. Our values – what is important to us
    A mismatch between what we are told is important at work and what we fundamentally believe is important to ourselves is a major cause of stress.  Examine your values – they may be out of date and you may want to shift, for example from: ‘it is important I work hard’ to ‘it is important I do great work’.  If your values are still out of sync with what your employer requires, you are in the wrong job.

Further Reading

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