What can leaders do to create a less stressful workplace? [Part 1]
By Madison Hanscom, PhD
Remember that not all stressors have the same impact, and not all stress interventions work similarly.
There are different types of stressors. Some stress can actually be a great thing. It can be energizing, create engagement, or promote personal growth. A job without stress of any kind would be boring, and we certainly would not grow professionally! If you think back to some of your greatest achievements, there were likely stressful moments along the way. This is normal and healthy.
When stress becomes unmanageable, it can become detrimental. When we don’t have the resources to deal with demands or the stress is prolonged and completely out of our control, this can be bad stress. These stressors might look like injustice in the workplace, role conflict, abusive supervision, sexual harassment, long hours, and so on. Stressors like this can do the opposite of good stress — they can hinder personal development, contribute to less job satisfaction, and poor wellbeing.
Not all solutions are equal. The right solutions will depend on the source of stress or the particular set of stressors. Some people are stressed because they are bored or not stimulated enough, and others might be stressed because they have too much going on and are overloaded. These individuals might need completely different solutions.
Regardless, something to consider with stress is whether or not your solutions are primary or tertiary/secondary. A good way to determine this is to ask yourself the question — am I fixing the root of the problem (primary solution) or am I fixing the aftermath of the problem (secondary solution)? It is better to think of strategies that fix the root of the problem because these are related to longer term success. However, this isn’t always possible. Sometimes the stressor is a rude coworker or a deadline, and it is only realistic to use secondary solutions (like deep breathing) to deal with these issues as they come up. Of course, this is less ideal because the stressor will always be there, but at least you are building resources to cope with it on a regular basis.
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