We talked, in our last series of content, about the toxic workplace: how to identify one, how to get buy-in to address it,and ways to resolve the toxicity. Not every business has an environment that extreme, but in the twenty first century even non-toxic cultures are often highly pressurised.
So what are the inner resources that business leaders need to draw on, and what skills do we need to develop to deal with the stresses of the modern workplace?
What are the common reasons for stress in the workplace?
In short: technology, economics and people!
Constant and accelerating change led by technology developments and economic fluctuations are all impacting job security:
- Technology: in a short space of time the digital revolution has killed some industries, spawned others and transformed the way we work. Expectations of productivity and customer experience, role complexity and new systems being implemented and updated mean workforces are constantly trying to keep up.
- Economic fluctuations: in the last 20 years we’ve seen economic bubbles and crashes around the world. The rise of the BRIC countries and the slowing of western economic growth. For the UK and Europe the ongoing situation regarding Brexit has impacted business decision making and investment.
- Job security: large scale job cuts continue to threaten both the public and private sectors. No industry is immune to the relentless push for efficiency and productivity driven by technology advances. Redundancy is common and portfolio careers are on the rise.
People are complex
- How often have you heard a leader in a business opine that the work is fine, the mission is good, but what takes its toll is having to deal with complex people issues? Work would be fine if it wasn’t for the people! In the context of constant change, employee engagement and motivation is fraught. The modern leader needs to hone their EQ skills to succeed.
The first step anyone ought to take to reduce stress is to remedy the cause of it. But the societal forces creating the pressures of today’s workplace are mostly beyond fixing for an individual leader.
So what is to be done?
Reinhold Niebuhr probably summed it up best in his Serenity Prayer: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.
Pick your battles, and dig deep for the resilience to fight them. The good news is that resilience is a learned skill, not a character trait. So anyone can build their reserves.
The level of resilience in a leader can be influenced by several factors:
- EQ (Emotional Intelligence)
- Self belief
- Personal thought processes
- Support networks
- Self-nurturing behaviour
- Openness to change
All these elements are key contributors to both the development and maintenance of resilience, but perhaps one of the most important factors is the ability or willingness to look after ourselves. In times of difficulty, being physically and emotionally healthy is especially important. If we are not in optimum health, dealing with adversity becomes much harder. The most resilient leaders usually take time to charge their batteries, relax and enjoy life. They make healthy decisions in relation to food and exercise, and turn to their network of friends and family for support and companionship.
So how, practically, can you develop your resilience? Here are our top ten tips:
- Believe in your ability to make a difference.
- Identify your goals in a positive way, i.e. what you want rather than what you don’t want. For example, ‘I’m going to find a new job’, rather than, ‘I don’t want to be in this job any more’.
- Accept the things you cannot change, and you may be able to continue to function alongside them rather than being overwhelmed by negative emotions. Mindfulness is an effective technique to help with this.
- Assess your situation objectively. Is it reality, or your view of reality? Try to keep things in perspective.
- Be proactive. Taking positive action encourages a sense of control, which in turn promotes feelings of confidence and optimism. Remaining passive can bring about feelings of negativity and powerlessness.
- Develop a strong, supportive network of friends, family and colleagues.
- Understand those things that particularly impact you in a negative way and plan your coping strategies in advance.
- Adapt. There is wisdom in the Japanese proverb which says, ‘The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.;
- Look after yourself, emotionally and physically.
- Learn from challenging situations and value them as an ongoing personal development tool.
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About Culture At Work
Culture At Work is a global coaching consultancy which delivers coaching culture strategy programmes and ILM accredited coaching and mentoring training to large multinational organisations around the world. We’ve trained hundreds of companies in 33 different countries and every business language.
International speaker, writer and broadcaster Carol Wilson is the CEO of Culture at Work and a pioneer of performance coaching. She partnered with the founder of performance coaching and co-creator of the GROW model Sir John Whitmore in order to translate his work into performance coaching courses. Carol is an expert on all areas of management training, from team coaching to senior leadership.