Workplace Stress

April, 2002

What are the signs of a stressed-out employee?
Look for people who are agitated and irritable, people who are complaining. What you’re doing is looking for unusual behavior, changes in behavior. Look for people who look like they’re dragging, tired or who haven’t slept. People who have lost weight or who have suddenly gained weight. The monitoring should come from the frontline supervisor.

Know that when stress is affecting you so badly, it affects your ability to perform your daily functions. That’s the kind of thing you want to look for. Prevents you from going to work, and performing at work.

Given those signs, how should the frontline supervisor respond?
Attentive supervisors are very aware of the stress level of their employees. But just because they’re attentive doesn’t mean that they have the option of referring their employees to an employee -assisted program. A lot of supervisors don’t feel comfortable making that referral. People try to avoid touchy things. It takes a very certain person to deal with that.

The best approach is to make sure supervisors are well-trained and feel comfortable in monitoring employee behavior and helping employees find the right resources to help them. They have to remind employees that they have different options to help them with the stress level. Those reminders come in the form of communication, employee-assisted programs, written forms, verbal forms.

What advice do you have for companies that plan to lay off employees?
Some of the more successful companies, the more sensitive companies have communicated quickly about layoffs and have offered employees change-management programs to help employees adapt to the changes of the company.

Survival Techniques
• Help one another. Be with those who care. Communicate with family (even if it’s to say that you don’t want to talk right now).

• Get plenty of rest. Practice good stress management. Don’t abuse alcohol or illegal drugs.

• Do things that make you feel in control. Don’t make major life decisions right now.

• Remember, you are having normal reactions, so don’t label yourself weak or crazy.

• Keep as normal a schedule as possible, but keep busy.

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Cathy S. Cruz