While recently performing service advisor training for one of my clients, I noticed that two of the advisors seemed very up-tight. Seeking out the Service Manager, I asked what was going on. He indicated that he was making them more accountable for holding numbers of selling tires, batteries, brakes, and menu sales on a daily basis. This got me thinking that most service managers don’t even consider the possibility of the employee being able to handle the stress. Even service managers have a tough time handling the stress that comes with the job.
Job stress is something we all face as managers, but what about our employees? Research shows that stress interferes with human intellectual, emotional, and interpersonal functioning.
We all handle it differently. There is no getting around it, but not all stress is bad and learning how to deal with and manage stress is critical to maximizing our job performance, staying safe on the job, and maintaining our physical and mental health.
For workers, infrequent doses of job stress pose little threat and may be effective in increasing motivation and productivity. However, too much and prolonged stress can lead to a downward spiral…both professionally and personally. Stress can cause some to break and others to break records.
After interviewing both the Advisor and Manager, I discovered that he was the ideal worker. He was always willing to take on new projects and work long hours and weekends until last year. There were subtle changes at first. His demeanor turned from always positive to a growing streak of negativism. He began to have problems sleeping. He felt frustrated with the lack of progress within the dealership, and a growing sense of no longer being a part of the team. He started to use sick days for the first time, some for a nagging number of illnesses and some for “mental health” days. Luckily for him, he had some friends who recognized that the problem he was suffering from was job stress.
Does this sound familiar? Could this be one of your employees or even yourself?
Symptoms & Warning Signs of Job Stress
While the causes can be something other than job stress, the following are the most common symptoms and early warning signs of job stress and burnout:
- Low morale
- Low morale
Causes of Job Stress
There are two schools of thought on the causes of job stress. According to one theory, differences in individual characteristics, such as personality and coping style, are best at predicting what will stress one person but not another. The focus then becomes on developing prevention strategies that help workers find ways to cope with demanding job conditions.
The other theory proposes that certain working conditions are inherently stress-inducing, such as fear of job loss, excessive workload demands, lack of control or clear direction, poor or dangerous physical working conditions, inflexible work hours, and conflicting job expectations. The focus then becomes on eliminating or reducing those work environments as the way to reducing job stress.
Strategies for Managing Job Stress
If your methods of coping with stress aren’t contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it’s time to find healthier ones. There are many healthy ways to manage and cope with stress, but they all require change. You can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose, it is helpful to think of the four A’s…avoid, alter, adapt, or accept.
Since everyone has a unique response to stress, there is no “one size fits all” solution to stress management. No single method works for everyone or in every situation, so experiment with different techniques and strategies. Focus on what makes you feel calm and in control.
- Manage your time better. Poor time management can cause a tremendous amount of stress. When you’re stretched too thin and running behind, it’s hard to stay calm and focused. Always plan ahead and make sure you don’t overextend yourself so that you can limit the amount of stress you’re under.
- Create a balanced schedule. Analyze your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks. All work and no play is a recipe for burnout. Try to find a balance between work and family life, social activities, solitary pursuits, daily responsibilities and downtime.
- Don’t over-commit yourself. Avoid scheduling things back-to-back or trying to fit too much into one day. All too often, we underestimate how long things will take. If you’ve got too much on your plate, distinguish between the “should’s” and the “must’s.” Drop tasks that aren’t truly necessary to the bottom of the list or eliminate them entirely.
- Try to leave earlier in the morning. Even 10 or 15 minutes can make the difference between frantically rushing to your desk and having time to ease into your day. Don’t add to your stress level by running late.
- Plan regular breaks. Make sure to take short breaks throughout the day to take a walk or sit back and clear your mind. Also, try to get away from your desk or workstation for lunch. Stepping away from work to briefly relax and recharge will help you be more productive not less productive.
Task Management Tips for Reducing Job Stress
- Prioritize tasks. Make a list of tasks you have to do and tackle them in order of importance. Tackle the high-priority items first. If you have something particularly unpleasant to do, get it over with early. The rest of your day will be more pleasant as a result.
- Break projects into small steps. If a large project seems overwhelming, make a step-by-step plan. Focus on one manageable step at a time rather than taking on everything at once.
- Delegate responsibility. You don’t have to do it all yourself. If other people can take care of the task, why not let them? Let go of the desire to control or oversee every little step. You’ll be letting go of unnecessary stress in the process.
- Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to contribute differently to a task, revise a deadline, or change their behavior at work, be willing to do the same. Sometimes, if you can both bend a little, you’ll be able to find a happy middle ground that reduces the stress level for everyone involved.
If you can’t take care of your employees, how can you take care of your valued customers?