In a previous post, we discussed recent survey findings, which showed that one in three managers are unable to handle high-stress, high-stakes situations in the workplace. The result of this inability can be poor team performance, which can be manifested in a number of ways.
Fortunately, experts say that the ability to deal with stress can be nurtured and developed. Company culture can play a major role here—either positively or negatively. David Maxfield, vice president of research at VitalSmarts and his colleague Joseph Grenny, coauthor of the popular business book Crucial Conversations, offer some tips for helping managers deal with stress.
Speak Up Early
While it may be natural for leaders to simply “buck up” under stress, it’s not healthy. Maxfield and Grenny argue that failing to speak up early about stress in the workplace makes the problem worse in the long run.
Managers need to be encouraged to openly discuss their stress with the appropriate colleagues and superiors. Do this early and there’s a good chance that you’ll positively impact the level of stress you face in the future.
Challenge Your Story
“When we feel threatened or stressed, we amplify our negative emotions by telling villain, victim and helpless stories,” say Maxfield and Grenny. Villain stories, as the phrase suggests, make others out to be the bad guys. Victim stories put the manager in the role of being unfortunately acted upon at the hands, or through the actions, of others. Helpless stories rationalize actions because “there was nothing I could have done.”
Instead, of falling prey to these types of stories, they write, managers need to take control of their emotions and challenge those stories.
Maxfield and Grenny argue that managers communicating with their teams while under stress should share their positive intent. This makes it easier for others to feel safe around you and work with you.
Even the most negative, or bad, news can be delivered effectively in an atmosphere of transparency and trust. Reaffirming that your intent is positive creates a climate where this can happen.
Start with Facts
It’s easy to get emotional and let feelings drive decisions and communications in high-stress situations. But Maxfield and Grenny encourage managers to concentrate on focusing on objective facts in communication and decision-making.
Stress is a fact of life in so many jobs, particularly for managers. But that doesn’t mean we have to be a victim of that stress. There are many ways companies can help managers effectively deal with stress to the benefit of all involved.