Stress is not a team player

Do you want to learn how to stop the growing stress in your team? Are you interested in practical tips for reducing stress levels? This article will benefit not only managers but also team members who want to have their performance and health in their own hands.

Adequate stress can increase the performance. It mobilizes our forces. But as Figure 1 shows, elevating stress soon starts to work the opposite – performance decreases.

Get to know the stressors

(stressor = anything that causes stress)

Psychological and social factors (workload, rumors, failure, change of routine, etc.), as well as physical and somatic factors (noise, quality of eating, a lack of sport or rest, etc.), contribute to the stress. Everything counts together and your team can start experiencing changes of mood (apathy, irritability), headaches, demotivation, conflicts, more sick leaves… does it sound familiar?

How do you know what might be wrong in your team? Be especially good observer and talk to your team about stress. At a group workshop, you can ask the team members the following questions:
• What kind of stressors do you know?
• What stresses you at work?
• How does stress influence the results of your work?
• What helps you to manage stress?
• What can we do differently or better?

TIP: Look for the causes of stress even in your corporate culture. Are you afraid of mistakes, or do you learn from them and go on? Are there more penalties than appreciation? What room do employees have to come up with their own ideas? Is the priority to look busy, or get the job done?
Impact of stressors can also be mitigated by their reframing.

Reframe the stressors

Do you see the glass half-empty or half-full? One and the same thing can make us feel differently only according to how we think about it. Positively frame (define) the problematic situation before it begins to define the relationships and moods of your team.

“In the animal kingdom, the rule is, eat or be eaten; in the human kingdom, define or be defined.”
Thomasz Szasz

EXAMPLE: Peter is a sales team manager and at a meeting with his team he announces: “Several people left our company last year.” Because the meeting ends soon and Peter has little time left, he can only say one more sentence.
Help Peter to choose a better ending line:
a) “The company now faces a lack of staff.”
b) “We’re getting new people. Let me know if you could recommend someone.”

How many times have you heard that something is a challenge (or an opportunity)? An example of positive framing is when you stop at the last moment and you say the word challenge instead of the word complication, trouble or issue. You say the challenge because it sounds better than the complication. Then you hope to awaken the ambitious and competitive spirit of the subordinate. Frequent use of the word challenge weakens its power and it becomes a cliché that does not mean much.
How to (re)frame better? Help the team members to understand and get oriented in the situation. Frame it in time, don’t let it be endless. Show your people why the challenges are worthy of investing their efforts. Make it believable that, that their activity can improve or manage the situation.
THEORETICAL BACKGROUND: A person is more likely to withstand the stress if he/she can understand it, make a sense of it and influence it. These are common topics of work of A.Antonovsky (Sense of Coherence), S.C.Kobasa (Hardiness) a V.E.Frankl (Logotherapy).

Where now?

Be a positive example. Show both your own activity and the ability to relax. A good prerequisite for coping with stress in a team is the manager’s ability to cope with his personal stress.

Pavel Wieser – Consultant Assessment Systems Czech Republic

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Would you like to know how Assessment Systems helps team members to eliminate stress? Get started to lead high performing teams!

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