Work Stressors and How to Respond

the blight
Originally uploaded by eschipul

Stress. Sucks.

Much has been written about stress invoking the limbic brain, which while effective in dealing with saber toothed tigers, isn’t so great at dealing with the complexity of the modern world. Add on top of that the recession, inflation and our mind’s dubious relationship with money and you have a mess. A mess of stress.

So to break this down I did some reading and The Stress Experience at work comes, according to researchers, comes from:

  1. a person’s perception of the situation;
  2. the person’s past experience;
  3. the presence or absence of social support; and
  4. individual differences with regard to stress reactions.

(source: Organizational Behavior, Hellriegel, Slocum, Woodman, pg 199)

Attacking these one by one can and will reduce stress. Perception. For example the people a person hangs out with and the content they put into their brain frames their perception of the world. Cliff changed the way I think about the post office. A character? Yes. But a real change in perception based on fiction.

Past experiences. Well, you can’t change these. But you can do
two good things. First – note that past experiences started in the
past, but also right now. Experiences occurring in the NOW are soon
past experiences and you can change a frame of reference. To an extent.
In practice I find it is more helpful to reduce stress by not thinking
about past experiences but to rather set a goal in the future and go
after it. If this is an internal sleight of hand, so be it. But great
things occur by looking forward.

Social support. Oh my, this one is interesting. My absolute favorite social network is flickr.
Why? The social support. The amazing people who help you improve your
photography. They take the time to comment and share. A close second,
on the odd numbered seconds when the site is working, is the mobile social network twitter.

Running a company has taught me that the people that support the group,
fellow employees, friends and clients alike, are the strongest ones
long term. The ability to provide social support is HUGE! And similarly
the fool who insists on standing alone is dangerous in their
refusal to accept social support. An ideal social structure is made up
of people willing to support each other and also willing to accept social support.

On a personal note I often debate if, although compelled to check my
recent activity on flickr, and the social graph on facebook, if these social networks are providing more
support or adding stress. I don’t know the answer to that. But I do
know they are enriching experiences. Except for linkedin. I find
linkedin "needy" but that is another post.

The best social support comes from real world family and friends who
notice your new haircut and care about you. The people who notice you
could use a bottled water and buy it for you without you asking.

Individual differences
are of course what makes us great. Gladwell in the book Blink
talks about the power of diversity being a diverse group makes better
decisions. I strive to keep my input diverse for several  selfish
reasons; life is more interesting and business is more profitable with
a diverse group. Diverse groups are just smarter as long as they can
wrestle the creative tension.

So to decrease stress while embracing individual differences you can
teach people how to train and teach people how to communicate.

Example: in social media we talk about how you must TEACH people social
media. You can’t buy it like a billboard. Yet do we train the trainers?
Teaching people HOW to teach leverages our individual differences while
reducing stress.

In summary, this is one of those blog posts that is as much for
myself as it is for you dear reader. I like organized lists. And it
helps me to frame the management of stress by focusing on the four
factors of stress; perception, past experiences, social support and
individual differences.

Within this framework, how do you suggest we as people reduce stress for our friends, family and coworkers?