Top Tips: Managing stress in the Workplace

Managing Stress

“Recent research has found that in many organisations a manager’s mood dictates the workplace climate – with favouritism and trust issues also blighting UK offices.

The study, by the Institute of Leadership & Management, found that 50% of leaders allow their mood to impact employees’ work. 40% regularly showed favouritism in the workplace, whilst a fifth of leaders failed to build trust with colleagues” (1)

One of the skills of a good manager is being able to manage your own emotions and not let your own mood impact those around you in the workplace. One of the key emotions we have to learn to deal with is stress, so we’ve gathered some tips on managing stress levels at work.

The frequency, duration and intensity of stress you perceive in the workplace can influence your mood, and how you respond to stress impacts your emotions.

We all want to be better at work
…and the better you manage your mood, the better you will be at curbing negative thinking and behaviours that will affect productive work time.

Mood management starts with awareness. It’s invaluable to have some basic insights into why we react the way we do – mood management assists in preventing emotional spinouts.

Here are some useful insights:

  • Our “old brain” is unconsciously constantly scanning for danger. It houses and processes memories and emotional reactions. One source suggests that the old brain operates at four million bits of input per second, and when it perceives a threat it can quickly attach powerful emotions such as fear and anger.
  • Our “new brain” is much slower and needs time to catch up to the old brain. This conscious brain moves at just 8,000 bits per second, so it is always playing catchup in order for rational thinking and problem solving can be used.

Because of this difference in speeds, the risk in times of stress and pressure is to become emotionally hijacked; our thinking gets overpowered by our emotions, which can result in poor decision making that can make things worse. Think of a loving couple having an argument and saying things they really don’t mean.

With this in mind, here are some ways to manage your moods:

Mood management coaching
Mood management is defined by our ability to keep powerful emotions in check so that we can make rational decisions that are in our and others’ best interests. The better we are able to stay calm under pressure, the less likely we will overreact and make poor decisions in the workplace.

Build your mood management foundation
Most of us have learnt to drive and had to pass a written and practical test to get a licence. Like driving, the more we practice, the better we get. The more we practice managing our emotions, the more likely we will succeed. However, it’s helpful to have the basics. Get your emotional intelligence (EQ) baseline and evaluate the benefits of learning more.

Practice pausing
Powerful emotions create urgency and the drive to make a decision and act. One simple rule: Don’t make any decisions when you are upset, such as angry, hurt, or scared. Pause and resist making a decision until you have calmed down and your conscious brain catches up. Sleep on it, or if it’s a Friday afternoon, leave it until Monday.

And don’t send e-mails when you’re upset. It’s okay to write one, but put it away for a few hours and re-read it before hitting send. Delay as long as you can, so you have time for your thinking to catch up, to ensure you are not making decisions based on emotion and not facts. It may not change the outcome, but it can help you get yourself in a better position to manage your mood.

Monitor your mood management ability
Daily monitoring and tracking are effective ways to objectively evaluate how well you are managing your emotions and mood at work. A daily journal that tracks your emotions, mood and outlook can help you determine the skills you may want to develop to add to your mood management foundation. A free, daily personal on-line journal can be used to track your mood day to day, such as Mood Panda.

Related Dovetail articles:
26 tips on dealing with stress

HR Grapevine
The Globe and Mail

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