Are You Too Stressed to be Effective at Work?

on Jan 25 in Workplace tagged by

Recently, ComPsych in Chicago surveyed employees at more than 1,500 organizations regarding stress at work. Twenty-nine percent reported that they come to work “too stressed to be effective” on five or more days per year. What might that mean? Most obviously, employers are losing at a minimum, one full week of work for almost one-third of their organizations each year, but there are bigger implications.

When people are stressed, their concern is neither for the organization’s goals nor for their coworkers. A stressed individual is solely focused on one person—self. “Me, me, me! What do I need? How can I cope? What am I going to do?” While self-preoccupation is normal and healthy as it helps people emotionally, physically, psychically, and spiritually take care of themselves, the workplace is usually not the best place to answer those needs. So when people are stressed, they are, at best, preoccupied with themselves and may appear “stressed out, needy, and selfish.” When they are “too stressed to be effective,” they have crossed over into distress.

Distressed people can do real harm to others. Because they are so upset, they project the source of their upset onto others. They blame, argue, procrastinate, badger, attack, criticize, pout, and demand. These behaviors result in their coworkers becoming upset and defensive, and a negative downward spiral is born. Further, distressed people lose the ability to listen, take things out of context, and misinterpret. The workplace stress is amplified and can quickly create a toxic environment further negatively impacting productivity.

What’s to be done? Ideally, organizations could have a “don’t come to work when extremely stressed” policy, since stress is a form of illness and highly contagious. They could also offer wellness programs to teach people how to truly take care of themselves. While organizations have a responsibility to create a positive working environment, individuals have the responsibility for self-management. Learning to take care of self (in every way possible) is the first step in self-management and being personally and professionally effective, which is why organizations pay employees in the first place.

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