Stress is an interesting concept. It’s not an actual diagnosis, but it is a person’s response to a certain situation. It is our body’s way of reacting to a certain event or situation. When we perceive we are stressed, we can either use it as a positive or as a negative. Some people thrive on stress and use it as a positive to get further and complete certain things. Some people get overwhelmed, they melt down and they can’t cope.
I have seen stress symptoms show up in almost every job I have been in, not necessarily my role, but those of managers that I advise, colleagues and employees that stated they are suffering from stress. Most people feel stress when they are in a position they can no longer control. Situations like; increasing workload, decreasing funding, team members conflicts, manager conflicts or situations they just don’t understand.
There are different strategies for dealing with stress, but everyone is different and what might work for you coping with stress, might not work for me. How then, do we support those that are suffering from stress? They need to pin point the cause or causes as a general reason for why you are feeling stress will never get you closer to actually solving the issue.
Is it the workload?
- If it is, a serious assessment needs to be done of what you have on your plate, what is high priority, what can wait, what can you pass on, what can you delegate.
- We can’t do everything for everyone. If another piece of work gets added, then another piece has to give. You also need to be strong enough to say, enough is enough.
- Be realistic about the reality of the work and the limited resources there is to do it, then a look at priorities and funding may/should flow on.
No one wants to be over-worked, no one should be routinely working more than 45hours in a week, as we then become counter productive. You will soon spin out of control with workload never disappearing, it is important for your sanity to address it quickly and honestly.
Is it conflict with team members?
- Being honest about working with challenging team members is not a bad thing. How can something be solved if you are festering about it in your head? The longer you fester, the more it will impact your work and your service.
- If you don’t feel comfortable addressing the issues with the person directly, your manager needs to step in to facilitate a way forward that will work for both of you.
- Personalities clash, yes, but professionalism should outweigh that.
Working in a team has the benefit of providing a sounding board, you should be able to talk to your team, share work and collaborate. When you can’t do those things you will feel isolated and the feelings of stress will build.
Is it manager conflict?
- This could be your line manager that you find difficult, or a manager that you advise for that you find difficult to work with. We have all come across them directly or indirectly in some part of our careers.
- Be honest, honesty will forever be the best policy, the way the conversation is constructed will be the hardest part.
- Frame it in a way that if you can find common ground and have an open relationship, the benefits will be on both sides.
- Seek advice and support in how to approach and deal with the issues, not just as an outlet in venting and holding your position.
- If your role is about advising people and you have a manager that pushes your buttons, stress will mount every time you have deal with them, until you scream (maybe just in your head – I would hope).
People are people, whether it is your line manager, or the manager you advise, or your colleagues. They will have their own stressors they are trying to address. If we hide the fact that we are fed up and frustrated, it will only escalate and come out inappropriately. Our own stressors can be elevated if our managers and colleagues know how we are feeling and what needs to happen to make it easier.
These few examples are external factors that create stressors, which then cause us to react in the form of stress. We can and should work to control the feelings of stress. If we choose to take small steps in our work life, we can start to eliminate factors that add to stressors. To be happy at work and then at home, we need to take ownership of our environment and do what we can to help us and those around us.
How do you handle your stressors and how do you help others eliminate them?