Stressed Out

No need to “turn back time to the good old days,” as the song says. Author Genella MacIntyre has a few tips on how to handle stress at work.

No matter what line of work you’re in, there’s one thing that’s always guaranteed – stress. Author Genella MacIntyre tackled the issue in her book Five Steps to Reducing Stress and shared some of her tips with FW Inc.

Tell us about the reality of work stress. How does it hinder productivity?

Distress impacts health, resulting in more sick time. If the source of work stress is poor leadership, all aspects of productivity suffer. Distress also increases conflict, employees are less creative, less able to solve problems and make more mistakes, and top performers leave.

Dealing with difficult people at work, especially, is inevitable. Does that difficult boss or co-worker take all the blame, or are there things an individual can do to reduce stress in the workplace?

Most difficult people are unaware of their impact on others. The difficult boss, however, needs to shoulder more blame than a co-worker. You as the co-worker have two choices in this situation: either don’t give feedback to that person, or give feedback. If you don’t have a conversation with the difficult person, nothing changes. If you do, something might, or it might not.

Consider the following suggestions: Focus only on the offending behavior, not on the person. If the difficult person is your boss, ask permission to discuss the situation. Find out how others communicate with this person. Also, don’t hint. Difficult people don’t get hints. Listen to the person’s perspective. Ask for permission to share yours, then find common ground or agree to disagree. Don’t assume the person is aware of his or her impact – rather, assume the opposite. Avoid words like “never” and “always” or other extreme language. Finally, document difficult behavior.

How can a business holistically look at work stress and tackle it as a company?

Communicate the importance of wellness, then walk the talk. Educate employees about distress, and ensure employees have access to employment assistance programs. Also, have zero tolerance for poor leadership. Promote increased physical activity, and ensure vending machines have healthy food options. Some other suggestions would be to discourage employees working through lunch or working excessive overtime, establish parameters about employees being on call, consider a “quiet space” for relaxation and allow a “casual dress day.”

Check out MacIntyre’s Five Steps to Reducing Stress:

STEP 1: UNDERSTAND STRESS
What is it? Why is it important? How does it show up in our lives?

STEP 2: TAKE STOCK
Identify what, specifically, is upsetting for you. Examine the “why” behind the “what” or the “who.” Know your stress symptoms and stress management style. Do you feel better or faster when you do something physical, shift your emotions or change how you think?

STEP 3: MANAGE THE EXTERNAL
Look at your physical environment. What can you change right now to help you feel better?

STEP 4: MANAGE THE INTERNAL
This involves challenging beliefs, turning reactions into responses, and reframing your thoughts and perspectives.

STEP 5: TAKE ACTION
Select one strategy and implement it.