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May 25, 2007

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Cope with Work Stress

Cope with Work Stress

It has been widely believed that the most stressful jobs are
those in the IT, nursing care, education, secretarial, and
service industries. There are also surveys that included
lawyers, engineers, marketers, and human resource personnel
among the most stressed professionals. Is it true that if you
are in these professions, you must necessarily feel stressful
at work? Can there not be occupational stress in other types
of jobs? While external factors heighten our anxiety and
responses, we should accept that how we perceive and deal
with these factors will determine the final stress level in us.
With the right techniques, we can cope and manage stress even
in these so-called stressful occupations.

Story:

The Ass and The Mule

Cope with Work Stress

A Muleteer set forth on a journey, driving before him an Ass and
a Mule, both well laden. The Ass, as long as he traveled along the
plain, carried his load with ease, but when he began to ascend the
steep path of the mountain, felt his load to be more than he could
bear. He entreated his companion to relieve him of a small
portion, that he might carry home the rest; but the Mule paid no
attention to the request.

The Ass shortly afterwards fell down dead under his burden. Not
knowing what else to do in so wild a region, the Muleteer placed
upon the Mule the load carried by the Ass in addition to his own,
and at the top of all placed the hide of the Ass, after he had
skinned him.

The Mule, groaning beneath his heavy burden, said to himself:
"I am treated according to my deserts. If I had only been willing
to assist the Ass a little in his need, I should not now be bearing,
together with his burden, himself as well."

Moral:

Cooperate or suffer the penalties.

The strong should help the weak.

Quotable Quotes:

“I love deadlines. I especially like the whooshing sound
they make as they go flying by.” ... Douglas Adams

“Brain cells create ideas. Stress kills brain cells. Stress is
not a good idea.” ... Doug Hall

“We are speeding up our lives and working harder in a
futile attempt to buy the time to slow down and enjoy it.”
... Paul Hawken

“If I were a medical man, I should prescribe a holiday to
any patient who considered his work important.”
... Edward O. Wilson

“Man is so made that he can only find relaxation from one
kind of labor by taking up another.” ... Anatole France

“Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with
the time we have rushed through life trying to save.”
... Will Rogers

[browse collection of quotes and quotations]

Lessons in life:

We think that humans have a phenomenal threshold in handling
work volumes. Often, it is not the huge workload that causes
stress, but the various factors relating to the work. Some of the
factors are:-

1. Lack of control over the way the work is done.

Consider two different management styles.

Manager A watches the clock, i.e., the staff have to arrive in
office by 9 a.m. and leave only after 5 p.m. with a break in
between, not exceeding an hour. The work processes are all
laid out in writing, and every member of the company has to
adhere strictly to the procedures. Any change in the procedures
has to be cleared by several levels of management and approved
ultimately by the boss. There are security cameras everywhere
and phone calls in the office are monitored.

Manager B gives the staff more autonomy in carrying out their
duties. The staff are to work a minimum of 7 hours a day.
However, they may start or end work anytime, a gesture much
appreciated by the parents who have to attend to family needs
as well. Each staff member is well-briefed on his or her scope of
duties and understands fully how these duties fit into the overall
scheme of things. The company encourages staff to come up with
new and better ways of getting the jobs done. In fact, the company
rewards staff for creative and innovative ideas.

Quite naturally, the staff under Manager A will feel stifled,
oppressed, frustrated and depressed. They may bring their
unhappiness home and the family members suffer with them.
Conversely, the staff in Manager B's team will be more motivated
to get their jobs done well. They are happy at work and might be
amenable to taking on heavier workloads.

2. Unreasonable deadlines.

Granted that the company's clients determine when they want the
products or services to be delivered to them. It is however the
management of the company that assigns the job to the employees.
The tendency of the management is to give it to the most efficient
and trusted employee. They fail to consider the number of projects
the employee has already undertaken, or the deadlines of these
projects. There are only 24 hours in a day, and when the employee
is swarmed with all the deadlines coming up one after another, the
stress level invariably goes up.

For employees who suffer stress caused by deadlines, the best
solution is to prioritize the work. Bear in mind that good
performance is not necessarily in doing everything well, but in
doing the important things well.

3. Unachievable targets.

Setting too high a goal and performance target may lead to the
undesirable result of increased stress in the team members.

4. Unfair treatment.

We do not doubt that in human relationship, there is bound to
be nepotism and favoritism. Bosses who have close relations
with or show fondness for particular staff is unlikely to want
that staff to be miserable in office. This staff may receive a
lighter workload, lesser responsibilities, nicer workstation,
and better appraisals. All these are normally done at the
expense of other colleagues who have to cover this staff's duties
with no additional rewards or benefits. No prizes for guessing
how these colleagues feel.

5. Unpleasant work environment.

Other than human factors, the work environment plays a big
part too. Any of these could add to the stress an employee feels
at work – too cold or too warm an office; insufficient working
space; lack of essential stationery or equipment; noisy
environment; improper lighting; sick building and poor
ventilation; long walk to washroom; odd seating arrangements.

The key to survival in a work setting is good stress management.
A couple of tips for anyone who is stressed by work:-

A. Take time away from the cause of stress.

Remove yourself temporarily from the environment. Take a
short break or time off to free your mind from the pressure or
tension. Stroll along the beach, listen to your favorite music,
meditate or pray. When you return, you are usually able to
look at the issues from a fresh perspective.

B. Talk to people and seek help.

During your time off, confide in family members, friends or
colleagues. They may have experienced the same problems
you are facing and are able to share their approaches in
tackling the problems. If you do not like to talk, use the time
to surf the web, read and research. Somewhere out there,
someone may have the solutions you are looking for.

C. Eat well and sleep soundly.

The cliché goes, “A hungry man is an angry man.” Have a
good meal and get a good sleep. When you awake the next
day, the problem miraculously seems small or different or
may even disappear from your thoughts altogether. Of
course, it is a perception, but a clearer mind can think of
better solutions.

D. Focus and act.

Pointing fingers and putting blame may ease your conscience.
Although you feel better if you push all the blame to somebody,
it does not move things along. Problems have occurred, and your
task should be to find solutions to the problems. Thinking alone
is also not enough. Once you have in mind the approach, you
should carry it out and act on it.

E. Accept stress as a part of life.

When you are suffering from stress, a likely question you ask
is “Why me?” Some people may be so overwhelmed by this
thought that they develop suicidal tendencies. The point to
understand is that everybody suffers from stress, one form or
another. If you are feeling depressed, you are not alone;
everyone else is and he/she is taking active steps to resolve it.
You can do the same, and like everyone else, you will succeed
in overcoming this feeling of stress.

F. Learn to say No.

For this, you may wish to read the tips outlined in the article
Learn the Art of Saying NO.

Related Articles:

Set realistic goals
Bosses who want their way
Autocrats, dictators, and dominant bosses
Conflict Resolution at Work
Boss's pet and Favoritism
Higher Purpose and Job Satisfaction
My Boss is an Idiot
Workaholics with No Balanced Life
Effective Delegation of Work

Books worth reading:

Unable to cope with an overwhelming number of things to do?
David Allen has the solutions in his bestselling book
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.
He suggests a system of work processing and prioritization to
help you in setting your goals and organizing an otherwise
unmanageable work schedule.

Talking about business bestsellers, if you have not read
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey,
do read it. It has an extensive discussion on time management
together with several tips on achieving success in both your
personal and professional lives.

© Business Fables and Management Lessons

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2 comments:

Fred said...

Great use of this story. Cooperatively finding solutions to the work that needs to be done works in every situation I've ever been involved in. Even in service industries where scheduling can be a nightmare and is often the number one complaint - simple solutions worked out with those effected can improve productivity and reduce the stress of everyone. (Even the schedule maker can benefit!)
Thanks for the insight.

Angela Victor said...

A new study of 1,000 workers in Europe found that stressful jobs accounted for 45 per cent of new cases of depression. The factors which the scientists isolated as being especially important were excessive demands on the job and extreme time pressures. Not only did they find that these workers, with an average age of 32, were experiencing a high percentage of job-related stress-induced depression, but there appeared to be a 40 percent increase in reports from workers of job stress. http://www.xanax-effects.com/

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