Sunday, August 14, 2011

How to Tame Stress in the Workplace

For years incivility in the workplace has grown to worrisome proportions. The large majority of workers have fallen victim to rudeness and increased stress on the job. The impact on the business and individuals is measurable with potentially devastating economic and personal loss. It is widely accepted that it is linked to broader changes in our culture. The source of the rudeness was more commonly coworkers rather than clients. There are ways to encourage trust and respect in professional relationships at every level.

The definition of incivility is rude behavior lacking respect or politeness. We have long understood that cooperation is necessary in any relationship whether personal, professional, or family. All these relationships are built on trust and respect. Civility is simply how people work and live together cooperatively. Some would say that it has been key to the strength of our culture cutting across social class, economics and other forms of bias. Research shows that incivility occurs very frequently in the workplace. Low level negative behavior can be childish requests or accusations about lack of knowledge. More intense actions such as being left out of a key meeting, having your credibility undermined in front of others or extra work assigned because of inaction by others, even yelling or shouting are not uncommon. Unfortunately these behaviors are much more common than any violence in the workplace, yet can be very devastating.

How does this affect workers? The stress created in the workplace profoundly affects the overall productivity of any business and the health of individual workers. Increasing demands of the economy and technology have created increased productivity with less people. However the stress on the individual worker has increased. Most companies have overlooked the value and importance of professional civility. Much of the negative behavior occurs without organizational awareness. Some companies may even feel they don't have time "to be nice". The reality is they cannot afford to ignore effective communication cultivating professional relationships among their staff. The effects of stress on personal health have been widely accepted for over 50 years. The more stress a person experiences the more likely they are to get sick. The vulnerability to illness can last for a couple years after the stress has past. The unhealthy effects pertain to infectious diseases, chronic illness including mental and emotional side effects.

A model of workers who are valued for their effort and information yields greater productivity. When there is proper training in the specifics of the job, effective respectful communication, and encouraging value of all team members, the workplace is more comfortable and accomplishes more. Although people need to be compensated fairly the most common reason people leave a job is because of lack of respect and inappropriate treatment. With a better working atmosphere there is less turnover of staff and greater loyalty to the organization and its mission. Cultivating a professional atmosphere means trust that your coworkers are doing their best. Look for the strengths in each other and compliment those traits. Have and expect a clear process for communication and feedback available to everyone that is done in a manner with respect for all team members. No one person can accomplish the mission without the contributions of all the team members. Recognize someone for their help and support. Appreciation and validating the individual remains a very strong motivator at home or work. With a little help from our friends, we can lead healthy, happy, more productive lives.

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