28 Mar What is Your Attitude to Stress?
It’s hard to start a conversation about stress but with the global outbreak of coronavirus it’s more important than ever to tackle the subject. What’s going on right now is having a detrimental effect on stress levels and the ability to stay focused, engaged and productive.
Stress and its impact in the workplace can’t be ignored.
So how do you start a discussion about stress? I’ve found that a great starting point is to identify your attitude to stress – which one of the four attitudes below do you and your employees recognise?
1 Chink in the armour
In this type of organisation, stress doesn’t seem to exist. Outwardly, people are happy and smiling. But when you dig deeper there’s a familiar story: ‘I’m feeling stressed but I can’t really say that because my colleagues and my boss will think that I can’t do my job.’
Employees with this attitude hide their stress for fear of it being seen as a weakness. They mask their vulnerabilities and put on a brave face because they’re worried they’ll get found out. They won’t admit to stress. However bad they’re feeling they’ll keep their heads down and just get on with the job.
Of course plenty of managers have their own ‘chink in the armour’ attitude, too. And guess what? They’re not telling anyone either.
2 Badge of honour
Here it’s impossible not to notice stress. Everyone, everywhere, is stressed. If there was a stress badge, they’d be proudly wearing one. ‘I’m stressed, I’m busy. I don’t have time to attend any workshops and I know everything about stress. Did I mention that I was busy?’
People who feel this way recognise that they’re stressed but they don’t see a way around it. To them, stress comes with the territory. They’re often unwilling to give up their badge and will bond with other ‘badge of honour’ colleagues.
It’s hard for them to imagine another person’s perspective on stress, which can make things difficult for non-badge-wearing colleagues who are thinking: ‘I’m not that stressed, but I can’t really say that because if I do, people will think that I’m not working as hard.’
3 Pandora’s box
People and organisations with this attitude to stress quite literally prefer to keep the lid on it. ‘We can’t talk openly about stress. Who knows what will happen if we do. It will only make things worse.’
Managers may fear that if they start having conversations with their employees about stress it will lead to all sorts of demands – like lunchtime yoga classes and mindfulness sessions – that they won’t be able to deliver. So their attitude is: ‘What’s the point of talking about stress if we may not be able to give our employees what they need?’
Financially, companies may be concerned that they don’t have the budget to roll out programmes to address stress within their organisation. Equally, they might not want to encourage conversations around stress in case employees use stress as an easy excuse to take sick leave or they cite it as a legitimate reason for them underperforming. And so the best option is to keep the lid on stress.
4 Burden to bear
There’s a heavy weight to carry here. Everyone is exhausted by their ‘burden to bear’. They’re trying hard to cope as best they can but stress is taking its toll. The impact of stress in the organisation is tangible. ‘We can see our productivity going down, our engagement and morale is low, our sickness is going up, there’s reactivity and blame-game, relationships suffer.’
In these cases, there is often a willingness to address stress. HR directors and managers may be working hard to tackle the issue with stress risk assessments, stress management techniques and other approaches.
But despite their best efforts nothing changes and people still ask: ‘How can we minimise this burden more effectively?’ Everyone in the organisation – employees, managers and HR – continues to be ground down with their burden to bear.
A change of attitude
Discovering how you and your employees feel about stress is an interesting conversation starter, don’t you think? There’s that nod of recognition when someone talks about their own personal attitude. Questions are raised and people want to hear more about how their colleagues feel. Suddenly stress doesn’t seem so hard to discuss.
And the good news is that attitudes can change. The conversation is just the start. Once there is an understanding of how stress is viewed by different people in different ways, it opens the way to find a new perspective on stress that’s positive and empowering.
* If you’d like to discover a new perspective and take positive action against stress, please get in touch.
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