Managing stress in the workplace

Part 1, Part 2

Improving your emotional intelligence

I wonder if this is you... You were promoted or you set up your own company/business and suddenly - or over time - you've found yourself in charge of a team of people. Stress management in the workplace and employee burn-out were probably the last thing on your mind.

You felt great! You could do the job, run your own company, expand your business, manage that team, all of this even if you felt apprehensive at first. If you weren't already, you quickly became familiar with the systems and processes.

So, when someone knocked on your door to ask for advice, that felt good. Until perhaps you realised what was actually expected of you.

I have on my site a number of articles with information on communication skills. Reading these and also the pages about depression, stress, anger and many others will help to increase your emotional intelligence.  

The information will help to equip you so that you're able to provide this aspect of your 'duty of care'. This will be particularly helpful if you've struggled when dealing with employee burn-out, 'nervous breakdowns' and depression in the past.

If you haven't 'struggled' with employee burn-out, have never given it a thought or couldn't care less, please do just read this article. Don't let yourself turn into another Ralph. I'd also love you to look at the results of a Canadian study so that you can appreciate how much sickness absence is due to mental health problems.

Of course you could have landed on this page because you do care. Great! Happy workers are more likely to make happy partners and more considerate parents, friends, carers, etc - you name it.  Your care will create a ripple effect of positive energy. I know - I work for a large organisation.

If you're thinking about how you communicate with your staff, you may also be interested in my page about Interpreting Body Language.

Stress management in the workplace

I suspect it didn't take long for you to realise that your qualifications and the fact that you'd been judged (or you judged yourself) suitable for the role hadn't prepared you for dealing with 'people problems' and managing their stress (let alone your own!).

That person knocking on your door asking if they could speak to you may not have wanted to discuss their workload, colleagues, systems or processes.

Perhaps they sat down and, probably without much of a warning, burst into tears (yes ... men too!). You may even have had to deal with this during a staff or performance appraisal.

Suddenly you're confronted with a story about...

... what a partner is doing

... what a wayward teenager has been up to

... how a visit to the doctor or specialist suddenly changed a life

... how their depression is getting the better of them

... or worries about heading for a nervous breakdown

(Have a look at Causes of Stress)

If your employees do break down in your office, you're actually doing well - even if you feel out of your depth. If your employees never present themselves with their personal problems, you need to worry - they're more likely to ring in sick, feel miserable at work, be less positive and/or productive.

Read on for the essential background information and then turn to Part 2 of Stress Management in the Workplace for details about how to deal with the issues, including dealing with staff with suicidal ideation.  

To further improve your emotional intelligence, I think you'll also find the information on Body Language Signs and Advanced Listening Skills helpful.

Where do you go from there?

You may be well aware that life throws 'stuff' at us. However, you may not necessarily have been prepared to handle your staff's issues.

Another scenario is that you've arrived in a department and, unbeknown to you, you have some 'difficult' people on your team - or so you're told, *nudge nudge ...*

All in all - managing stress in the workplace is a skill that can mostly be learned - at least some of it. If you know that you're 'lousy' at people's skills, then do yourself and your employees a favour - appoint someone who is an expert.

However, before we go on, have a look at how different it can be...

Still, you're now having to support your employees who have come with all sorts of mental and emotional challenges. Ignoring and ignorance aren't a solution, so I hope you'll read on...

Managing people with stress and depression

Dealing with 'life'

Your team members/employees maybe dealing with some difficult issues in their lives. As a result, they may not 'bound into the office' in the morning.  

However, give them a few months whilst they're dealing with whatever has affected them, and you'll probably find that they'll be back to their old selves again.

I'd love you to have a look at this video of Rhonda Magee talking about the ways in which mindfulness can be applied in the workplace to help us create a more compassionate environment for ourselves and our colleagues. 

Depression

You may have one person (or two, or ...) on your team who is on antidepressants, perhaps long term. They may even talk about 'their' depression. Perhaps they have a tendency to see the glass as half-full. Depression can fall under 'severe mental health problems'.

(Personally, as a professional counsellor, I think it's worrying if someone is on antidepressants if they haven't been given (or haven't taken) an opportunity to discover other ways of getting well again.)

If someone who's normally the life and soul of the office suddenly becomes quiet and withdrawn, it may be a warning sign of depression. Don't panic though - just pay them extra attention if it's appreciated.

I'd really like you to read my pages on depression to increase your own emotional intelligence. Your knowledge and understanding will make you more approachable and better able to deal with your employees appropriately.  

Believe me - it will make a huge difference when it comes to keeping them at work and remaining a productive member of your team. You might also want to look at Depression in Men.

Anxiety

You may also have someone who is normally happy-go-lucky. However, all of a sudden, their productivity has gone down. They're not talking much, their sick leave has gone up and they may seem generally anxious. You're probably left wondering what's up and how you're going to handle that.

Then there are people who have 'trait anxiety' - a genetic pre-disposition to be anxious about all sorts. They need lots of reassurance, even to the extent that you and their colleagues get 'fed up' with constantly having to acknowledge that they're doing OK.  

Or you might panic when thinking how on earth you can tell them that they need to do better, without it turning into a major drama. However, in the right role, they can make an enormous contribution to your team or company - they figure out what can go wrong!

'Nervous breakdown'

You can also see an employee or team member slowly 'go downhill'. Bit by bit life seems to become more difficult for him or her. If they have problems at home, be that relationship problems or anything else, you can expect problems at work.  

Part of your role with regard to stress management in the workplace is to offer support. This is absolutely vital particularly in this situation. The right actions can prevent long-term absenteeism due to an employee having a 'nervous breakdown'.

When someone presents with a mental breakdown, it may be the result of work-related stress too. Employee burn-out, caused by the pressures put on someone in your name, could get you into trouble under health and safety law.  

You have a duty of care for your employees. However, it makes moral and economical sense to look after your staff - they are the most valuable resource you have!  

Make it your business that your employees don't suffer from burn-out - there is much that you can do.

Other mental health problems

Whether you have a member of your team suffering from depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD or any other mental health problem you're aware of - your best bet is to inform yourself by visiting the National Institute for Mental Health website.  

Appropriate support for individuals with these kinds of challenges will ensure that you keep people at work and any related team issues remain manageable.

All of these descriptions only cover the very basics. Do make sure that you have a good look around at this site to familiarise yourself with the subject.  Also, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and RSS Feed.

Part 1, Part 2

Related Articles

Problem Solving Strategies
Problem Solving Techniques
How to Deal With Criticism
Signs of Depression
Anger Management Tips
Natural Remedies for Stress and Depression

Other Helpful Links

ScienceDirect - Research: Is compassion for others stress buffering?
ScienceDirect - Research: A daily investigation of the role of manager empathy on employee well-being
National Institute for Mental Health
American Psychological Association - Work related stress

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