Monday, October 26, 2020

Job Stress: The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Stress at Work

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Quite often job stress can cause physical symptoms which many people don’t realize as work related. Migraine headaches, stomach problems, back problems, heart problems, and other ailments can be caused by stress on the job. For most, a visit to their family doctor is the first step that is appropriate. However, a person who is suffering job stress should realize that his/her health is being affected by problems on the job. Physicians sometimes do not diagnose stress as the contributing factor or the cause of physical ailments. Patients often don’t tell their doctor what stress they are experiencing and so the underlying problem goes undiagnosed.

Stress can cause some very real physical reactions in our bodies. Anxiety or Panic attacks are the best example. Seemingly out of nowhere, a person experiences a racing heart beat, tightness in the chest, dizziness, sweaty hands and dry mouth, and a feeling of disorientation. People who suffer panic attacks will quickly tell you that they don’t know what is happening to their bodies and they think they are having a heart attack or some other terrible illness. Stress is that powerful. So if you are experiencing job problems and you are also experiencing a negative physical reaction, you might want to consider the strong connection between stress and physical illness.

Many people want to know if job stress can be considered a disability and the answer is “yes.” If an employee is examined by a Clinical Social Worker, Psychologist, or Psychiatrist who confirm the diagnosis, then clearly there is cause for a workman’s compensation claim. I have heard that some employers accuse employees of malingering because they look physically fine.

Just because an employee can walk and talk regularly doesn’t mean that they can function well on the job and that they are not suffering. Some employers would like to think that job stress is not a legitimate reason to be out of work and claim a disability. The workman’s compensation board and other insurance companies take the matter very seriously. If there is real evidence of a situation or person who is causing job stress, the matter should be taken seriously. Clearly, a person who can’t do their job well or just doesn’t like their job may be under stress, but it is not at the level of causing a disability.

10 Signs You Stayed to Long on the Job

Many people find dealing with change very stressful. The stress of changing a job can be as traumatic as a divorce or death of a spouse. Although changing jobs can be very hard and traumatic, it can be an exciting time as well as an opportunity for personal growth and development. Sometimes, we stay at our jobs too long. After consulting with people who have changed jobs a lot in their careers, we have come up with a list of signs that indicate it is time to leave a job. Some of these signs are subtle and others are pretty straightforward.

Here are 10 signs (our top ten if you may) that may indicate that you have stayed on your job a little too long.

  1. When you go to clock in and your time card is missing.
  2. Your parking space has been assigned to the maintenance person.
  3. Your boss passes out the vacation bid calendar and your name is crossed off.
  4. The lock to your office has been changed and when you ask the secretary about it she asks you for your badge.
  5. Your office telephone number has been permanently forwarded to the Human resource office.
  6. Your office mates ask you if you will need your office supplies.
  7. Co-workers circle your office or cubicle with carts waiting to take your office supplies and equipment.
  8. You find that you were not invited to the Christmas party, which is held, outside your office.
  9. At a staffing meeting your boss talks about all the free time that you will be having.
  10. You get a notice that your severance check is waiting for you in the personnel office.

Job Stress Prevention

Most of us will face job stress at sometime during our working lives. After all, our jobs are where we spend most of our waking hours! It is at work, then, where we experience the greatest job tension build-up. Let’s learn ahead of time to identify the signs in ourselves of serious, mounting problems at work…problems which can, if not checked, culminate in personal unease, or possibly disruptive situations.

We can almost always sense if our lives are starting to get out of control. Certainly, those closest to us — spouses, trusted relatives or friends — feel our worries and pains. This is the time to deal head-on with job-related stress, before it develops into an emotional burden or irrational crisis.

Once you identify a problem as job stress, you can confront it constructively. In the early stages of the process, those close to you can be of enormous help and solace; there’s no substitute for the unconditional support of a loving family and caring friends. It’s comforting to discuss your situation with people who are central to your life. Ask for their input. After a brainstorming session, you may have new insight. This, in turn, can inspire you to cope in different and innovative ways. Worthwhile alternatives may emerge! Explore them.

The very act of taking constructive steps in an effort to rectify the situation that is causing you pain can loosen the grip of emotional tension. This will enable you to examine your problems more objectively and determine their resolution. Also, it’s always helpful to distance yourself from a problematic situation for awhile. Stepping back puts your life in balance and “recharge your batteries” so that you can return to the situation with a fresh point of view. During this period, choose an activity that gives you pleasure — a hobby, a sport, or a volunteer pursuit. Whatever makes you happy!

Take time to explore the professional resources that are available to you. Even if you’re not comfortable seeking professional help at the moment, it always helps to know what’s out there. When you’re ready to ask for assistance, check into your employer’s EAP (Employment Assistance Program), tap into your community counseling agency, link up with a local self-help group, consult a therapist, or go on-line to our blog. All of these avenues are either inexpensive or free of charge, and the long-term benefits to you will usually outweigh any cost. Remember, job stress is like a disease. Staying aware and alert to the signs will enable you to catch the problem early, while it’s still at a manageable stage.

Lifestyle to Manage Job Stress

We live in a stressful age. Stress not only comes from our jobs but from the constant change we face daily. Our fast-paced society, where change is constant and we rush from one place to another, has negative effects on our health and wellness. By exploring the way we live our lives and modifying our lifestyle, we can lessen the effects of stress and learn to channel stress in a positive manner.

The distress that we experience on a daily basis plays an important role in the development of disease (the word disease can be broken down to disease or not at ease). Many studies have indicated stress (change or conflict) in one’s life to be a contributing factor in early death from ailments such as heart disease, strokes, cancer, liver disease, suicides, and accidents. Stress has also been shown to lower our immune response. In fact, stress on the job and job dissatisfaction are major factors in the use of sick time.

When we face a stressful event, we experience what is called the “fight or flight response.” Adrenaline is pumped into our bloodstream along with sugar, and cholesterol to prepare us in dealing with the immediate threat to our well-being. When this response is not channeled properly or is chronic, this state will lead to degenerative diseases brought on by excessive wear and tear on our bodies. Chronic stress can lead to hypertension, depression, and susceptibility to other common physical ailments.

Stress is inevitable. Without some level of stress in our lives we would become bored and depressed. Because each of us is unique in our ability to cope with stress, finding a balance between our personality and the level of stress we face daily is the key to managing stress. Handling stress effectively involves the development of physical, psychological and spiritual buffers that positively mediate the effects of stress in our daily lives. This may mean making some adjustments to our lifestyle. Strengthening one’s body through exercise and eating a healthy diet can increases the body’s ability to handle stress. Learning to relax and play can decrease the effects of stress.

By developing a social support system and positive outlets for our stressors, we can increase the amount of stress we manage. By changing our internal dialogue, and learning to love and forgive ourselves, we can decrease some of the internal stressors in our life. Developing a sense humor and enjoyment of live is another way to deal with stress. Seeing things as a learning experiencing can be a way to put a positive spin on things and decrease some of the effects of the stressful event.

Finally, remember the two simple rules of Stress Management:

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  2. It is all small stuff.

Dealing with Management Stress

Management poses some of the most interesting and stressful problems on the job. Working with people might be great, but managing them is another story. People come with so many different backgrounds and experiences and present a real challenge in managing them. We have many requests for help, we receive focus specifically on managing people. (i.e. a supervisor finds it difficult
to manage a particular individual, an employee and his or her immediate supervisor do not get along, etc.)

Like it or not, everyone is in “management”. No way, right, but think again because we really are when using “management” in an all encompassing and inclusive way.

Most of us live and work in a vibrant and expanding service sector in a global economy. In many real ways, people are more independent, but they are all specialized in what they do. This creates a greater dependence on others to complete our work. In essence, we are all “middle men”, middle women and/or middle persons trying to do our jobs.

We are all intermediaries who rely on others and, as importantly, who impact the ability of others to do their jobs. Workers’ answer to supervisors who answer to other supervisors who answer to executives who answer to CEOs who answer to the Board of Directors who answer to the stockholders who answer to the consumers who impact workers. On and on it goes. 

Managing people is one of the single greatest sources of satisfaction and stress. There isn’t anything greater than a well functioning team getting the job done and competing at a high level. On the flip side, a team with lots of dissension can be a living nightmare in which to work. It’s a constant source of stress, and since we spend so much of our time working these days, any job stress can be corrosive and eventually lethal. It diminishes our quality of life. 

The difficulty in managing people comes from our individuality — people’s uniqueness. Whenever more than one person is involved, we more than likely, have more than one opinion, more than one perception, more than one agenda, and so forth. Multiply this by many people and the stress rises considerably.

We believe that the easiest and simplest way to minimize the stress that comes from working in the “middle” and managing people is setting clear expectations. It’s not fool proof, but people work better when they know what’s expected of them. Likewise, we can perform at out best when we know what we’re supposed to be doing. 

Everyone likes to know the finish line – the goals. Mystery has it’s place in novels and movies, but it complicates all of our lives on the job — so get rid of it. Make sure goals and expectations for ourselves and others are clear. Change hidden agendas so that they are open and clear. This not only gives us a chance to succeed, it sets up everyone we work with, regardless of job title, to succeed as well.

Dealing with Conflicts at Work

Like in a good marriage, cooperation is the foundation of a healthy work environment. But also like in a marriage, true cooperation in the workplace is based on trust. Trust, in turn, is only possible when there is clear communication between co-workers If you and your colleague are constantly afraid or unsure of how to talk with one another about a problem you’re experiencing, a pattern of miscommunication and misunderstanding will result. 

A disagreement or difference of opinion with your coworker isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, conflict can be used constructively to bring about positive changes in your relationship. 

Getting along with others is a critical skill that we all need to survive in the workplace. Since everyone can expect to encounter a conflict on the job at one time or another, why not be smart about it and be prepared? Here are some tips to help you keep a routine conflict from escalating into a crisis:

  • Don’t assume that you know the reasons for someone else’s behavior. 
  • Be careful not to allow your emotions to overtake logic and reason. 
  • Shift the goal of your role in the conflict from proving a point to creating a compromise.
  • Suggest to all those involved that you sit down together and brainstorm ways to make a losing battle into a “win-win” situation for everyone. Call in a mediator — a disinterested third party who you both trust — to facilitate the process.
  • Let some time pass after the initial conflict so that both parties can think with a more cooperative focus.
  • Seek the advice of friends and try to get an honest opinion about the situation.
  • Let go of the past and focus on the present. This step is a big one! If you can accomplish it, you’re well on your way to a mutual understanding.
  • Don’t verbally attack the other person. Make “I” statements such as, “When you act that way, I start to think you don’t care about my feelings” instead of, “The problem’s simple — you’re just an inconsiderate boor!”

Even though you can’t always know when a conflict will arise, if you’re prepared with some conflict resolution techniques, you’ll have a better chance of keeping your cool.

Dealing with Sexual Harassment at Work

If you ever wondered what all the furor is about sexual harassment, here is some information that you might find useful. The term “Hostile Environment” means repeated unwelcome sexual comments or behavior in the workplace. What does that mean? Well, if you enjoy telling dirty jokes you’d better be careful. And you’d better get rid of those scantily clad women or men on the calendar as well. If an employee finds dirty jokes or pornographic material on the job offensive, that employee can claim a hostile environment exists and can file a complaint.

The definition of Sexual Harassment is: unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is used as a basis for conditions of employment. A typical example is when a supervisor or employer wants to have a sexual relationship with an employee. If he or she refuses, the rejected supervisor or employer suddenly provides the employee with a poor job performance evaluation, or tells the employee that her/his work is suddenly not good enough. Or perhaps the promotion that was discussed a few months ago suddenly went to someone else. The employee can make a complaint.

There is lots of confusion about dating another co-worker or supervisor. Some companies have policies forbidding their employees to have romantic relationships with each other. Dating another staff member is not bad in and of itself. The problems of sexual harassment occur when one partner of the relationship decides to end that relationship and the other partner persists with making romantic or sexual advances. This can be viewed as sexual harassment as well. You can imagine how difficult this can be if a supervisor and employee end their romantic relationship, and the supervisor persists in making advances or takes his/her anger of rejection out in a way that affects the employee’s career. 

The issue of liability is also confusing to many. If a staff member reports sexual harassment to a manager, the entire company and manager is on notice and something has to be done. Individual liability is also possible in many states. For example, California juries have awarded damages against individual supervisors, as well as other employees for individual acts of sexual harassment. 

What do you do if you think you are being sexually harassed? Your first step is to notify your supervisor about the problem. If you have the problem with your supervisor, you move up the ladder of administrative hierarchy. If you feel that sufficient action has not been taken, the government office of Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) can guide you through the proper procedures of making a formal complaint and provide you with advice. You could always see a lawyer about the problem as well to see if you have a legitimate case for lawsuit. Be advised that these cases are difficult to prove, and the stress of going to court and dealing with our legal system should not be underestimated.

We can provide you with information specific to your situation at work. Often we find that there are ways of talking to a supervisor or co-worker about the nature of sexual harassment which can clear up the problem. If that has already been tried, we can advise you of your next strategy. There is no longer any reason why anyone should have to suffer emotional discomfort or some form of job discrimination due to sexual harassment.

Handling “the tough” Boss

Most everyone has had one. The boss who won’t listen but loves to talk or maybe even yell. Just because a person is a boss doesn’t mean that they aren’t human. Employees often forget that a boss is a human being too. The boss might have some problems at home or might be under serious pressure to get things done. There is no excuse for a boss to yell at an employee or degrade that employee in any way, especially in front of the other employees. However, remembering that the boss is human can have it’s advantages.

If you approach the problem boss in a supportive way you might find that he/she softens a bit. By that I mean, try to be supportive in a genuine way. Employees like to get a pat on the back from time to time. Bosses need the same thing, sometimes even more. It is often the case that bosses don’t get a pat on the back from their supervisor and the employees are so busy working that they think their immediate boss is to blame. The phrase “it’s lonely at the top” can be all too accurate for a boss who is under pressure from upper management and must push his employees to the max. This boss suddenly finds himself/herself without any friends on the employee level. So when the boss comes looking in your direction when it’s a bad day, you might try being supportive and acknowledge the fact that there have been easier days for a boss. 

One example comes to mind. An employee I was counseling was working for the supervisor known as the “wicked witch of the west.” This supervisor had the worst reputation for being angry and non-supportive to her staff. The employee came to me for help in dealing with this difficult person. After assessing the situation, we decided that the boss needed some support. The employee told her boss at the first real opportunity, that she was doing a good job. The supervisor had a shocked look on her face, and said that no one appreciated her work, and that she really appreciated the complement. From that day forward, the employee and supervisor worked together in a very supportive way. The employee was also shocked at how different her boss was from that day on.

The above is just an example of how a boss/employee relationship can be dramatically turned around. Obviously, things are not always that easy and other tactics are needed to deal with a difficult boss. However, sometimes a little kindness can be contagious, even with a stressed out boss who seems like a tyrant.

1 COMMENT

  1. Matt

    The 10 most stressful jobs measured by level of 21 specific job demands according to the Jobs Rated Almanac are:

    1. US President
    2. firefighter
    3. senior corporate executive
    4. Indy class race-car drive
    5. taxi driver
    6. surgeon
    7. astronaut
    8. police officer
    9. NFL football player
    10. air-traffic controller

    Right or wrong, love him or hate him, believed or not believed, given what the President, any President especially in “media” era, undergoes everyday, he works under the load of enormous stress. The media spotlight, inspecting his every move, just adds to the intense pressure of the job.

    We live in a glass house society. By that I mean, personal privacy has become an endangered specifies. Access to information directly opposes the safeguards of privacy. While we are headed to a much more open society, the latest made for TV scandal about President Clinton raises important questions for all of us. Do we want to live under a magnifying glass in order to have instant access to everything? Do we really want to know what our family, friends, neighbors, celebrities and strangers do when they think that they are unobserved? Is too much information about some things not very good, and should some things remain private?

    There was an old sage that said that you never knew someone until you lived with them. In a glass house society, we all live with each other all the time. Given that most of us know people we absolutely would not want to live with, even if we like them, are we ready for this new world? As the alleged Presidential scandal plays itself out, we should all pause and think about the kind of society in which we want to live and work.

    There’s enough stress in our lives already. Everyone needs time away from the scrutiny of others – a respite, some relief, a time to recharge our batteries or a vacation. We don’t need to create an environment without any retreat or responsible escape. Be sure to take time for yourself to avoid stress on the job and at home.

Gloria Brown
Women's health and wellness retreat leader providing vacations and trips for women to get in shape -- and stay that way! On CleansePlan.com you can find my articles about weight loss, health and women's issues. Please feel free to contact me on gloria@cleanseplan.com

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