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Coaching Through the Chaos of Stress in the Workplace

Aug 14, 2008
Are you ready to address stress in the workplace? Knowing what motivates your employees so that you can accurately predict how they will respond to stressful situations is the key to a powerful organization. This article will provide you with information that can help with coaching through the chaos of stress in the workplace. Whether you're an executive, a manager or a team leader, the following information will be beneficial to you.

Unrelenting stress, the kind that many people face daily at work or at home, is debilitating. Sociologists and others often call it America's #1 health problem.

Did you know...?

- Stress is such a major factor that we have an agency devoted to the subject - the American Institute of Stress (AIS).
- The AIS estimates that stress on the job costs industries and businesses more than $300 billion a year because of accidents, absenteeism, employee turnover, diminished productivity, medical/legal/insurance costs and workers' compensation awards.
- In a study at UNC, 50 percent of employees reported that they achieved less while fuming about a negative atmosphere or situation they faced.
- 20 percent in the study said they no longer did their best work while under nonstop stress.
- A stunning 46 percent of employees thought about quitting their jobs because of stress, and 12 percent resigned.

It's easy to see the dollars adding up. For managers, the dilemma is how to coach through the chaos and get the work done without driving away the best workers.

How to do this? First, managers need specific information that tells them what's going on with each employee - preferably before the stress gets so bad that half the workforce is thinking about quitting. A manager will have a much more difficult time coaching stressed workers or teams when the symptoms of tardiness, absenteeism, conflict and poor productivity are already apparent. A preventive is in order, one that tells us where the worker needs help and how best to offer that help before he gets to the point of throwing his hands in the air and stomping out.

Here are some ideas to move you on your way:

- First, make sure your leadership (or lack thereof) is not creating the problem. You must know your employees, but know yourself first. Are you communicating clearly? Are the job requirements understandable? Have you kept your employees abreast of changes they need to know about?
- Assessments will show you whether an individual employee has the skills, motivation, interest and other competencies to do the job he or she is in. If they are lacking, a development plan is in order, or a new position in which the employee fits better.
- Understand your employees' career goals and help them understand their roles in the organization and how they fit in the big picture.
- If the stress is not coming from the employee's work situation, direct them to therapy or counseling. Managers should not take on the role of counselor unless the stress is job-related and within the manager's area of expertise.
- Encourage your employees to strive for balance in their lives, especially the workers who seem overly focused on work. The person who regularly arrives at work first and leaves last is a prime candidate for a conversation about stress.
- Direct workers to take short breaks throughout the day. If your office culture permits it, remind employees in a humorous way over the public address system.
About the Author
Jim Sirbasku is co-founder and CEO of Profiles International, a leading provider of human resource management solutions and employment assessments for businesses worldwide. For more information, download the entire coaching through the chaos of stress guide.
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