N MY 30 years of corporate life, I have been able to observe and experience different kinds of stress.
Basically, in the workplace, the causes of stress can be divided into two categories: organisational and emotional.
This type of stress can be the result of the following:
Workload: Trying to cope with excessive workload can result in fatigue and the fear of not completing a task. The consequences may be low morale, self-doubt and even panic, which can lead to an emotional response of fight or flight. This translates into bouts of anger or throwing in the towel.
Over-commitment: People who cannot say “no” often find themselves having to deliver more than what they are capable of.
Excessive demands: On top of a punishing workload, these demands or additional work responsibilities are usually made on an ad hoc basis and have a tight time frame for delivery.
This type of stress comes from three sources:
The boss who keeps undermining you: If nothing you do seems to be right, it may be that your supervisor has a problem with low self-esteem and feels the need to show you “who’s the boss”. Alternatively, ask yourself if the problem is a breakdown in communication.
Uncooperative co-workers: One main cause of emotional stress is working in “silos”, where people focus solely on their own task with a disregard for other people’s needs.
Personal stress: This usually occurs when you bring personal unresolved issues to the workplace.
Coping with stress
Many experts on handling stress advocate turning to traditional practices such as yoga or taiji, or learning breathing techniques to restore calm. All these are excellent ways to de-stress. Choose one that suits you.
However, in the workplace, there are some practical steps you can take to handle stress.
Target organisational stress
Prioritise your work and do what is urgent and important first. Look at what can be delegated and remember always to delegate according to people’s strengths, so that you are confident they can get the assigned task done.
Manage your time: There are many training programmes on time management that you can sign up for to help you handle your time more effectively. Or, partner with a colleague who is good at time management and is willing to mentor you.
Being able to say “no”: This is difficult, but sometimes you have to reject tasks diplomatically by making others aware that if “something else” has to be done, “something else” will fall off the cliff.
Target emotional stress
Clarify intent: If someone seems to be undermining you, it is essential to seek clarification. Sit down with the other party and ask why there seems to be a problem. You may be surprised how wrong you were all along. On the other hand, if there are some issues that need to be resolved, you have made the first step in finding a solution.
Seek support: If co-workers are not responding to a request for support, it may not be their fault, as they (just like yourself) are trying to cope with their own workload and excessive demands.
Seek management’s help. Some managers think that more will get done by squeezing the lemon. They fail to understand that better team interaction will deliver better results.
Manage personal stress: If personal problems are brought to the workplace, they will hinder you from working productively, which adds to your stress. Try to resolve these personal issues with appropriate techniques such as conflict management or seeing a trained counsellor. You will be able to come to work with a clear and serene mind.
If you follow these tips, your work environment will change for the better, you will be more productive and your stress levels will decrease — making you a happier and healthier member of the organisation.