News and commentary from the world of work
At Work Horizons our job is creating a service that helps people find work that they find rewarding and fulfilling. But we are also interested in the wider world of work and employment; here are some recent thoughts and ideas posted by the Work Horizons team.
Stress can be a positive force for change or a debilitating drain on your energy. The first and key stage is understanding the causes of the stress and its effects on you. This is one of those situations in which you must be honest with yourself and those close to you. Frequently, the threat of something happening is far worse than the reality.
Have you read the piece, Dealing with Emotional Strain? These are issues on the same spectrum ranging from an unhealthy reaction to circumstances, to being overconfident and dismissive of potential negative consequences.
- Step one in dealing with stress is to identify the negative stimuli and the reasons they are having an adverse effect on you. The same factors will affect different people in a variety of ways, so be as specific and clear as possible.
- Step two is decide whether the issues are real or psychological. For example, not having enough money to pay the bills is a problem but only having half-a-billion pounds isn’t. If this sounds fatuous it is the reported reaction of a guy with assets of around £500 million but believed he would only be secure when he had doubled it. To most of us this is incredible but was real to him.
- Step three is either to truly accept there isn’t an issue or it isn’t as significant as our mind is telling us, or find solutions. One thing is certain, doing something is much better than waiting for someone to come and solve it for you.
Who can help you to either sort out the nature of the issues or find answers?
This may seem obvious but it is worth being explicit, only take drugs under the supervision of a doctor; do not self-medicate.
Anyone facing a potential crisis in life or even a sought-after change may face some physical and psychological issues. As coaches our first and primary concern is for the health of our clients. Too many people lose the motivation to exercise, eat the wrong foods and open a bottle of wine or two.
When faced with a crisis there is a temptation to withdraw. This is a natural reaction and not one for which anyone can be criticised. However, part of the answer to sadness and despair is physical activity, which we address in its own section (Focusing on health). The thing which is certain is you will be no use to yourself or your family if you are unwell, so let’s make sure it doesn’t happen.
This is not the time for binge drinking and eating. It is the time to focus on sleep, exercise, diet and, perhaps most importantly, your mental health. Our number one piece of advice is, ask for help. Do not think these are issues for you deal with on your own. There are numerous examples of people losing their jobs, not telling their family, pretending to go to work as normal, filling days with job hunt getting into debt and spiralling into despair. And it could easily have been different. Was it pride, fear, embarrassment, protection from the reality for the family or a combination of some or all of these? Yet, overwhelmingly, the better option was to share the facts and seek solutions together.
The phrase, “A trouble shared is a trouble halved” is, of course tosh in itself; it remains the same but it does have more people trying to solve it, bringing different perspectives and thoughts.
Whether the pressures and stresses come from work, relationships or anything else, they do create an emotional strain. For some people pressure is manageable but for others it passes the point of elasticity and it is a problem. Employment being under threat or even starting a new job are stressful.
If you haven’t read the section on Resilience, please do so.
Whatever the source of emotional strain, the impact can be debilitating. It becomes stress when the individual’s ability to function is impaired.
It is a widely held view that the most stressful events are;
- Death of a loved one
- Moving to a new house
- Changing jobs
For some young men dealing with being the Best Man at a wedding, because of the speech, is an incredible strain. It fills them with dread and causes sleepless nights.
We believe a little tension is healthy. People who are too laid back under-perform sometimes. Their laissez-faire attitude can create complacency. Even the most experienced public speakers get a flutter in the tummy before taking the floor. However, they know what it means and embrace it; this sets the adrenaline running and heightens the powers of concentration and delivery.
Change is inevitable and the rate of change is increasing. According to Emmott Rogers 16% of us will resist change, which is 1 person in 6. These are people who will find keeping a job very difficult. Every aspect of the workplace is transforming and individuals need to be equally adaptable.
The successful employee of the future will have a number of characteristics and key amongst them will be an acceptance to adopt change. The rate of change in all aspects of life is accelerating and business, whether that is private, public or civic, is one of the fastest.
There are two key facets of an individual being adaptable;
- The person must have the correct attitude, the instinctive desire to behave differently. This is not the natural way for many of us but we need to educate ourselves.
- Be capable of acquiring the skills needed for the changed situation. Can we learn and adapt to allow us to adopt?
These two criteria are in that order deliberately. The person who can easily gain skills and knowledge is of no use if the attitude is wrong and they won’t apply them. However, even the best attitude isn’t enough if the technical skills cannot be learned.
It is evident that as decisions are taken regarding the people to be retained at a time of redundancies a key factor will be the acceptance of change and willingness to lead rather than follow.
It is too easy to just accept our situation or a job which “will do”. Why can’t you look for your dream job or the perfect environment for you to work in? Who has the right to say you are not capable of being successful?
As we have mentioned elsewhere, the majority of people have frustrations in their job, indeed as a broad statement it might be nearly everyone. The issue is scale and whether it is becoming unbearable and cannot be changed. Our advice would be to consider the current situation and describe clearly for yourself the things which are wrong or frustrating. Can they be changed? Do you want to change them? Is it just time for you to do something completely different?
What are the issues? Is it poor leadership? Poor pay? Unfairness? Unchallenging? No promotion prospects? Uncooperative colleagues? Slow systems and processes? Bureaucracy? Lack of recognition? Lack of space to take initiatives? Products or services you dislike? Something else? A combination of several?
Clearly, your search for something else needs to ensure that whatever the frustrations they are wholly or mainly eradicated. The kernel of this article comes in the phrase, “Mainly eradicated”. Perhaps we need to accept we cannot find perfection but how close do we need to be? Can you describe the red line beyond which you will not cross?
Consciously or sub-consciously, we all make these assessments based on our preferences, our financial commitments, the location of any job and the strength of our habits. We may want to make a change but will we allow ourselves? How often do we hear ourselves say, “Oh, it will do for now”? Or, “When the children are a little older…”? or, “When my mortgage is paid off…”
We compromise our desires because of the context of our life or relationship or our inertia. Movement requires motivation, direction and action which may be too much hassle. If this is the case, then fine but do not complain, criticise or judge others who are making a move.
Pressure and stress are not easy to measure and we all react differently to stimuli. Is work feeling oppressive? Do you have money issues, relationship problems or other frustrations? Are they affecting your health or lifestyle?
At a very basic level people work for money to enable them to provide comfort and security. It is money that gets people out of bed but our desire is for people to bounce out of bed because the day is so full of possibilities and interest. Many people would argue their attitude to work would be different if money wasn’t an issue. However, in four studies in the USA, citizens received a guaranteed income and became more energised and productive either than laze the days away. Other research now puts $30000 per anum at the figure around which money ceases to be a motivator for most people, after that motivation comes from intrinsic sources – a message some managers haven’t heard or comprehended.
When the need for work is so integrated with the basics of life there is the stress that comes from knowing job loss would put many aspects in jeopardy. The great thing about self-employment is you cannot be sacked; you may fail but at least you won’t be dismissed. It is actually very freeing.
Often “Office politics” is one of the things we are told is horrible and exhausting. Who said what to whom? About whom? What will the boss think? Who will receive credit for good ideas and scorn if things turn out badly? (Not necessarily the person or people who fouled up!) This is hardly a symptom of a cohesive team. If you are brutally honest with yourself, do you get involved? Would everyone’s life be better if there was no politics? Would the organisation be more productive? A very interesting guy, Oliver James, has written a book on the subject, cunningly entitled Office Politics.
It is also sad to relate pressures at work affect health and home life, especially relationships.
We have dedicated a whole section to health in this site, so please pay a lot of attention to ensuring yours is good.