Training on Stress Management

In today’s continued challenging times, organizations should consider exploring stress triggers during employee onboarding, training managers and employees on stress coping strategies, and more.

A report on the BCC’s Website asks whether Generation Z is the most stressed generation.

The piece, by Megan Carnegie, notes:

“The global strain of what some call a ‘permacrisis’ impacts workers of all ages, yet many researchers and experts posit that Gen Z is the most stressed cohort in the workplace overall. Jumping into their careers in the past few years—with some only just entering the workforce during the pandemic—has put them in particularly difficult situations. According to Cigna International Health’s 2023 survey of almost 12,000 workers around the world, 91 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds report being stressed—compared to 84 percent on average.”

In today’s continued challenging times, stress management training is key for both employees and their managers.

Questions to Ask

Stress management coping skills should be taught to new employees as part of the onboarding process. Managers also could be trained to monitor stress levels as a part of performance reviews. During every performance review, there could be questions related to stress.

Many employees will be hesitant to admit to being stressed out, so managers will need a set of questions that can unearth high levels of stress indirectly. I found this 10-question test developed by INSEAD professor Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries, which was included in an article in Inc. by Jessica Stillman.

Among the questions that caught my attention were ones on whether the respondent feels their life is out of control, whether they are having increased interpersonal conflicts, whether their work life and/or home life are no longer giving them pleasure, and whether they feel their life is becoming a “never-ending treadmill.”

These questions sound similar to the questions asked to determine whether a person is experiencing depression. The danger of stress is that it can lead to the even more serious condition of depression. An employee troubled by stress-induced depression is not likely to be engaged in their work or care about making your customers happy. They also are not likely to stick with your organization for the long term.

A high level of stress reminds me of a person touching something that is too hot that will burn their hand. There is an immediate reflex to pull that hand away as fast as possible. I wonder whether something like that happens when a person is facing intense stress. Instead of calmly thinking through how to deal with it, some people may just jump away from it as fast as possible. These are the employees—who you thought were doing such a good job, and were so seemingly happy—who one day go into their manager’s office to let them know they are leaving (and not necessarily waiting the standard two weeks).

The Party’s Over

A senior editor I knew was a highly valued member of his publication. That publication relied on him to do huge amounts of work in quick turnaround time. Late last summer, out of the blue to the rest of us, he announced to his boss that he was retiring—effective almost immediately. There was a major annual conference the publication always participated in that was around the corner. His boss tried to persuade him to stick around until the conference was over, but he had had enough. He had just turned 65 and wanted out, immediately. I remember thinking that I can understand why you would get to a point where every additional minute with that high level of stress and resulting unhappiness was intolerable. In one way, it reminds me of being at a party that I find miserable and need to leave immediately. That publication was a party he had stopped enjoying years ago.

Different Causes of Stress

The top causes of stress will be different for everyone. In my case, the top cause is other people’s focus on perfectionism. This is the person who won’t let minor deviations go, but instead harps on them, forcing you to curtail other work for hours to focus solely on perfecting something that is inconsequential (at least in my view). This personality type does not view anything as inconsequential. Conversely, I’m sure my personality—which isn’t always the most detail-oriented—is stressful to them.

When onboarding an employee, it can be helpful to find out what their stress triggers are. Your managers then can find assignments and colleagues they can work with that are less likely to activate those triggers. You also can provide training to help the employee develop coping skills to manage their stress when those triggers are unavoidable.

Do you explore stress triggers during onboarding, talk about stress coping strategies, and make a conversation about stress level part of annual performance reviews?