Stress Management 101

I have a friend who recently laughed that her new boss—the creative director at a makeup company—reacts to every e-mail and phone call as if she were working in a hospital’s critical care unit. This kind of stress-mode mindset that turns even the most minor issues into full-blown crises is common today.

A couple weeks ago, CareerCast released lists of the most and least stressful professions. CareerCast’s ranking system (http://www.careercast.com/jobs-rated/jobs-rated-most-and-least-stressful-methodology) for stress considered 11 different job demands that reasonably can be expected to evoke stress. These demands included such things as travel, competitiveness, physical demands, and whether the worker’s own life were threatened. Each demand was assigned a range of points.

A high score was awarded if a particular demand was a major part of the job, fewer points were awarded if the demand was a small part of the job, and no points were awarded if that demand was not normally required. Audiologist, hair stylist, and jeweler were ranked least stressful, while enlisted military personnel, military general, and firefighter were ranked most stressful.

Chances are your employees are not dodging bullets or running into burning buildings to save people. Yet as you walk around your office and overhear conversations, and speak yourself with employees and managers, how would you rank the stress level? It’s likely many of those whose work you support have blown their responsibilities out of proportion in their minds, or are stuck reporting to a boss who interprets minor situations as emergencies.

Stress management is a key to successful management of employees, so it seems only natural that companies would have stress management programming or discussion as part of leadership development and new manager training. Surprisingly, in writing about training for more than eight years, I haven’t heard much on this subject.

Some ideas that come to mind are seminars about the art of working smart and how to simplify, rather than complicate, tasks for employees. In addition, a course on stress management for managers should look at how to facilitate rather than roadblock employees’ work, and how to have a welcoming, can-do, rather than negative, argumentative, attitude toward employees’ new ideas.

Does your company teach stress management skills to managers and employees? What can you do as trainers to create a workforce that approaches challenges with a calm, productive mindset?

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