How to Deal With Work Stress
These days everyone is putting in longer hours, but not feeling as fulfilled as they would like to. It’s almost as if you’re on a treadmill that is increasing in speed with no destination!
“Work” definition – according to the Oxford Dictionary is the activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result; as a means of earning income.
So, we know that effort of any type can tire you out, but when you lack balance in that effort it can lead to chronic stress and tension.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, chronic stress lowers your immune; it also lowers your digestive and reproductive systems. It affects your ability to sleep and is said to be a silent killer.
So how do you regain personal balance to prevent burnout and chronic stress?
How Do You Build Your Team?
Updated: February 2021
Most corporate team off sites (done onsite in the boardroom with food catered), are done with the intent of having a team building experience.
You know what I’m talking about? One of those meeting when the team gets together away from their usual desks. A caterer brings in two Diet Cokes and three cans of Sprite for a team of 7. The food is the same each time, usually some kind of sandwiches, and the last person to select gets stuck with the egg salad.
For team building you might add an exercise or two like “If you were an animal, what kind would you be and why”. With a few laughs and full tummies do you really expect your team to be more successful?
Unfortunately these team building activities seldom generate success behaviours. Management may think team building happens when they invest in a few meals together, but the reality is your team just hopes for an early exit home.
Seldom does the 'building' of a team really occur.
Do Your Employees Hate Work?
When great employees don’t get what they need to thrive, they wither and become a zombie before your eyes.
Has your previously amazing rock star employee turned into one of the ‘working dead’..... that quit, but stayed?
How would you know if you have disengaged employees?
Sometimes, it is not very obvious. Zombie employees may get sick frequently; they may complain or stew about issues more; they are more detached; they increase the number of breaks or take a long time to accomplish work; or, they seem more frustrated or annoyed.
When team members, who were previously quite involved and full of life, become quiet or just don't bother trying anymore - there is a good chance they're checking out.
It is becoming quite an epidemic.
According to Gallup less than 13% of employees are an engaged worldwide – that means many people hate their jobs. With a concerted effort you can bring them back from the brink while preventing the further demise of your very best people.
Will Your Team Follow YOU?
Updated April 2020
“Let’s play follow the leader Nanni,” my 3-year old grandson says, pulling on my hand.
He leads me through the house, taking me downstairs and back upstairs. We crawl, we jump and we stand still; he laughs when I shadow him and is so delighted I’m following his lead. He then says, “Nanni its your turn to be the leader!”
After much laughter, we fall into a heap on the couch. Fun and shenanigans like this make for some great memories.
Too bad leading a team isn’t quite that straightforward – or is it?
Rebuild Team Trust After Layoffs
So your team has been restructured and the dust finally settled.
Now, you’re supposed to go back to ‘business as usual’ but things feel far from normal. As the leader, you’re in a tough position because everyone on your team turns to you for answers and clarity. But, you're as much in the dark as they are, maybe a bit ticked off too....so what do you do?
Rest assured you’re not alone; heck, you can’t read a newspaper or hear a business report these days without learning about a company cutting back, laying off or reorganizing.
Just like you, there are hundreds of leaders trying to find their way to get back on track, regrouping but also trying to rebuild trust of the ‘survivors’.
Poor Communication = No Connection
These days, with all the tools we have available, we are far more connected and capable of staying in touch than ever before!
So don’t you find it a bit ironic that in today’s workplaces, lack of communication remains one of the biggest issues for employees? Regardless of the industry or size of company!
Here’s the thing - if your team doesn’t feel heard, they don’t understand the direction of the company, never get constructive feedback, or they don’t think you care about them as a person, then why would they give you their best work?
Self-Doubt is Debilitating
True story - 20 years ago I didn’t feel worthy of a $25,000.00 salary!
After 9 years of raising our daughters, I began the difficult task to return to the workforce, was turned down for every job I applied to and told my skills were ‘out-of-date’.
It felt horrible to be rejected, but what was worse was how I felt about myself. I remember sobbing to my husband ‘Who will ever pay ME $25,000 (the going rate) after being out of the workforce; all I am is a stay-at-home Mom!’
How Best Leaders Have Difficult Conversations
I was delighted when Kim Scott's book Radical Candor came out as I heartily share her views on candid conversations. To me it really is an art, not a science!
Just like art, you get better the more you do it. While there may be steps to take, you only develop comfort for 'uncomfortable discourse' as you practice doing it.
I'm not telling you it will be easy. After all, it does conflict with what your Momma taught you - 'if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all'. But when you become a leader, just as Kim says ' it’s your job to speak up--and it's your obligation'.
Have You Asked Yourself, Am I a Credible Leader?
I heard about Tom through leaders in other departments and some of his team.
Tom was a top-level leader; he was sharp, rather humorous, a technically-adept-quick-study, and very good at corporate politics in his highly specialized C-suite role.
However what Tom didn’t know, was that most of his team had lost total respect for him as a leader; they didn’t believe half of what he said and few trusted him anymore.
As a result, team morale was at an all time low, they spent much of their time cross-checking the many stories he told, second-guessing his every move and gossiping about Tom’s life outside of work.
Oprah Says Everyone Has a Calling
When talking about success, Oprah Winfrey said "Everybody has a calling. And your real job in life is to figure out as soon as possible what that is, who you were meant to be, and to begin to honor that in the best way possible for yourself."
So how do you do that?
When Work Sucks, You Need to Go
Time to go – those words rang through my head when I caught up with a work-friend I hadn’t seen in years, when she told me about her job.
It all came back to me, the dreadful soul-sucking heaviness when my old job became absolute drudgery.
Looking back, I knew in my heart it was time to go but I continued to persevere, pushing myself to do work that wasn’t ‘me’. I told myself that it was a good job with good pay so I’d be crazy to think about leaving …it even had a pension, and who leaves that at my age!
That is her situation too; she is suffering in a job that no longer serves her and she feels so stuck.
Does Your Team Trust You?
Hey did you hear? Prime Minister Trudeau admitted there was an ‘erosion of trust’ occurring in his office; he was unaware of it (based on what came out in the recent Canadian justice committee inquiry). Imagine his disappointment to find that people did not feel comfortable coming to him with concerns.
Well sadly, he is not alone, many leaders realize a little late that there are issues or an underground culture (where they are excluded) in their workplace. It may not come to light until exit interviews, employee surveys or worse, formal complaints.
Getting Tough Feedback Can Hurt
I will never forget the first time I received tough feedback at work because lets face it, who can forget the moment when the are completely blindsided!
I was managing a government-funded employment centre at the time. While working on a tight deadline to implement a new computer system, I received quite a shock when the Director called me to come to her office ASAP.
She told me my peer (Margaret, who I worked with every day) had raised a concern that needed to be addressed immediately. Margaret felt ‘intimidated’ by me and I made her... uncomfortable. Instantly I became defensive – WTF?! Why didn’t she talk to me, what did I do, where was this coming from? Me, are you kidding me… intimidating?
I get it! Difficult people on your team can zap your energy ‘getting on your nerves,’ making it a pain to work with them. Well guess what, I’m here to tell you that pretty much every difficult person you will ever lead, can be a great asset; you may even find them not so difficult after all!
This series has been dedicated to helping you figure out how to tap into hidden potential of difficult types and minimize the frustration:
- Part one when you’re challenged with a “The Know All” (TKA)
- Part two for the blow it up Revolutionary type (TNT) or
- Part three the Take No Prisoners (TNP) personality type
To wrap up the series, I’m going to help you with one seldom discussed, often misunderstood and a very draining style to work with… the Constant Critic (TCC)!
You know this type; they tend to be appear very negative. Just like Eeyore (from Winnie the Pooh) who constantly points out the negative in every move. They don’t cause big drama but they do seem reluctant to get onboard with anything new, usually based on some prior experience.
The Constant Critic profile:
Meet Pete – “Mr. Quiet Dissonance”
Pete (name changed) has an accounting background and works as a Director, Strategic Planning & Performance for a large Retailer. He's been an executive for 5 years but has been with the company for over 20. The 3 people who report to him quite enjoy working with him.
He reports to Marnie (not her real name), VP Business Performance who was recently promoted. Marnie and I have been working together on improving her direct team’s collaboration and she asked for help with Pete, in particular.
Pete is commonly referred to as the ‘company historian’ and has lived through a couple of mergers, several name changes as well as take over from a US-based company.
Marnie was forewarned that Pete seemed disengaged before she took on the team.
Pete is a great example of the Constant Critic personality type!
The good news is Pete responded positively to Marnie as soon as she began implementing strategies we spoke about.
Her action plan included:
At this point, her focus is on developing more of a trusted relationship, and that maybe all it takes.
Marnie's increased interest in his experience seems to have had a positive impact already; the team has noticed Pete becoming more participatory – no more crossed arms in meetings and some have even commented about him being more sociable.
The benefit of having a TCC on your team – great devils advocate, can help you develop persuasive arguments, often sees a different perspective and helps to reflect on pending plans. Often they have learned from past mistakes, can be a historian with very helpful information to draw upon.
The key to leading a TCC – remain positive, redirect negativity, stick to facts and data that support positive outcomes. Help them see the impact of their behaviour on others if it becomes a problem. Ask the TCC to reframe their initial reaction toward a more positive response.
Caution leading a TCC – do not get pulled into negativity. Limit how much time you give when they become negative.
For every difficult type of person, there is a way of changing YOUR perspective about what contribution they bring to your team. It may take a little effort, but drawing upon unique perspectives can be a competitive edge for your team.
If you are dealing with a difficult person on your team (or even your boss) and you’d like help to figure out how to communicate better with them, send me an email. There are just as many strategies as there are difficult personality types!
Can you see a bit of yourself in Pete? Have you been 'shutting down' at work, avoiding colleagues or find yourself to be increasingly contrary?
You may be a Constant Critic or are heading that way.
Time to reflect on how negative you may appear to others:
Photo CC0 @bkotynski Unsplash
Thanks for returning to my series about difficult people – I'll be interested to hear what do you think, so far? Do you see how difficult people can be a competitive advantage for your team? Let me know in the comments below.
To recap part one of this series I began with “The Know All” (TKA) personality type, you surely know someone who embodies those traits. For part two I spoke about “The Revolutionary (aka TNT) type” who are seldom satisfied with the status quo.
For part three I will shed light on the all too familiar, yet quite challenging, difficult ‘Take No Prisoners’ (TNP) personality type.
Consider ‘the Donald’ reporting to a leader in a business setting. Yes, that is this rebel style. What do you think, difficult to manage? Oh my, heck yeah! A true leadership test.
You may be surprised to know there ARE ways to harness the power of this rebellious in-yo-face type when they report to you (not so easy to when they are running a country). When you guide them the right way, you create a powerhouse talent on your team and even better, leave a lasting positive impact in your company.
Meet Liam – The Gun-Slinger
Liam (names changed) is an up-and-coming, newly promoted executive in telecommunications. He is 33 years old and incredibly clever. So much so he has been promoted rather quickly. Over a 5-year period he has moved up three times (unusually fast) and is now at the Director level with eyes locked and loaded for a Vice President’s seat. He has been told he has “CEO potential”, which is amazing BUT he tends to share that info with others in an obnoxious ‘boasty’ sort of way.
Highly strategic and a quick study, he has demonstrated value in every role very quickly. Liam is highly action-oriented, capable to make change and adapt rapidly. Managers who promoted him looked past some of his behavioural shortcomings for political reasons - because the top bosses really like his boldness. Leaders fanned his fiery flames, instead of providing candid feedback and guidance, for fear they may be seen as a roadblock to his rise up the ladder.
When his newest manager Claire, VP Ops (seriously, not her real name or title) reached out for my help, she told me she inherited ‘a blow-hard, pompous, egotistical jerk.’ Claire was ultra motivated to find 'something' to hit home with him before everyone quit on her team. When we started, she was at her whit’s end.
Liam is the quintessential Take No Prisoners (aka TNP) profile.
The Take No Prisoners profile:
The benefit of having a TNP on your team – quick decision makers, they assess risk swiftly, are very determined, action oriented, inventive, shrewd and persistent.
The key to leading a TNP is trust and mutual respect. Set high expectations regarding their behaviour; hold a mirror up to see results of their approach; be liberal with praise at the right times. Listen to their ideas, positively reinforce relationship building, and be candid with feedback that will benefit them with very firm correction if they appear to burn a bridge – they appreciate that directness.
Caution for leading a TNP – they require a firm leader whom they respect or they will undermine your efforts. Do not do battle with them as they are very clever, set clear boundaries early on, then hold them to those.
My approach was to have her build a real genuine connection and be very firm with expectations and harness the positive side of his traits.
Claire began to develop two-way trust with Liam:
I hope to become an executive coach to him one day and if I do, I won’t pull any punches. He needs direct feedback to help him succeed; learn how to flex his style yet capitalize on what makes him a powerhouse in business.
Could people perceive YOU to be like Liam? Or do you know anyone with this style?
Help is Available
For every difficult type of person there is a way of connecting to the jewel that may be under a rough exterior. It can take a bit of work on your behalf but having distinctly different personalities on your team can become a strong competitive edge as well as a leadership legacy.
If you are suffering with a difficult person on your team (or your boss) and you’d like help to figure out how to communicate better with them, send me an email. There are numerous ways to connect!
If you aren’t on my mailing list, you’re missing out on other juicy tidbits to become an effective leader. It is never too late to sign up! I have sign up links all over my site, for your convenience. 🙂
Photo by @anneniuniu on Unsplash
Elaine Adamson is a leadership consultant with Dots Leadership Solutions Inc. A natural dot connector. Passionate about coaching team effectiveness and leadership development she shares over 25+ years of real-life tips and tricks that really work!
Elaine believes you can discover and leverage strengths to forge a strong team dynamic despite business challenges or organizational change.
She posts some great articles on Linked In too!
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