5 Ways Great Leaders Help Their Employees Process Stress

stress at work

I have a friend who works for a tech company and she is constantly on edge. They push her and her team very hard.

She told me that her hands sweat every time her boss approaches her. He might just walk up and ask how her day was going, but because of past issues she freaks out every time they talk.

This response causes her to be constantly be on alert instead of relaxed.

When you are relaxed you are:

  • More creative.
  • More productive.
  • Happier

It’s not how much stress you have at work that matters, but how you process your stress. The more tools you have to build strong stress processing habits the healthier and happier you will be.

If you want to get the most our of yourself and your team you must understand how to process your stress. Stress is not bad. Too much sustained stress is what is bad for you. Stress can gel a group together if there are systems in place to help them.

People are 30% more likely to die from stressful experience like death in family or financial struggles each year. The people who have no increase in dying from stress focus on helping others instead of dwelling on their situation. - Kelly McGonigal

So let’s look at how you can help your employees process stress and help them be more productive and of course happier.

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1. Create vision and core values for your team.

Creating core values is where I start with every client who wants a happier and more productive team. People want a better understanding of why they do what they do and how the team’s values fit that vision.

If their core values don’t fit with the team’s there will be a disconnect that causes a lot of stress. Many times this can be fixed by making the vision and core values more clear.

It’s important that your team incorporates the vision and core values into the routine of work. If you create them and don’t talk about them and live them then they become forgotten. It’s why I suggest creating monthly themes to help engage and share ideas that help employees live the team’s core values.

2. Improve your coaching skills.

Good coaching skills in a boss and/or manager are one of the most sought after attributes of a manager by young employees. They want to work for someone that encourages them to be their best instead of just telling them what to do.

One of the best skills to use with people who are stressed out is the Reframing Technique. It helps people put a situation into a more positive perspective. If you notice an employee who is stressed out then pull them aside and talk with them. Help them see the positive in the situation.

It could be a really good question like:

Are you feeling a little stressed right now?

The question is a tad leading, but if the signs are there you want them to know that you notice that they are feeling overwhelmed. If they say yes than ask them why?

Let’s say they are worried about what the CEO will think of the finished project. Let them know that you would like them to meet the deadline, but their health and happiness is important. You could try a quick reframe by asking them:

What is the worse case scenario?

They might say that they'll be fired. Then ask them if they'll still wake up in their warm bed tomorrow? Will they still eat a delicious breakfast? Will they be able to hug their kids when they get home? It's a good way to make them smile. They should say yes, which is what you want. It allows them to put the situation into perspective. You want them to let go of the stress and anxiety so they can do calm and focused work. Work that won't get them fired.

The main idea is help them reframe the situation so they can let go of the stress and get back to being relaxed and productive.

3. Make them laugh.

Humor is one of the greatest stress relievers ever known. If your team is stressed out and arguing with each other. It’s time to step in and encourage them to do something fun that will hopefully get them to laugh.

You can order pizza and get people to hang out with each other. If you think your team could use a distraction you can play charades or Cranium (board game) that gets people talking and sharing.

Every team is different, but encouraging conversations usually helps build a bond and laughter naturally flows.

4. Know when to be a friend.

There are always difficult choices when you are a manager. Sometimes you have to be tough, create expectations and if they don’t meet those expectations then there are consequences.

Other times you have to be a friend. A friend who is compassionate and can be there to listen to someone who is having a stressful time at work.

Being a friend who is there to listen and offer advice can go a long way to building trust. The hard part is knowing when to be a friend and when to be a boss. Everyone is different and you’ll have to go with your gut.

Just try to put yourself in their shoes and see the situation from their perspective. This will give you a good idea of when you just need to be a friend and empathetic to how they are feeling.

5. Jump in and help.

“How can I help?”

Is one of my favorite questions from my boss. It meant he was willing to dig in and help make things better.

Too often managers ask.

Can I help?

This is a bad question. It shows people that you don’t really want to help because you are subtly telling them to say they don’t need your help.

Sometimes you can see where an employee is struggling and where you can help then just jump in and start helping. A boss that isn’t afraid to ask how she can help is one leader that I’ll gladly work hard for any day of the week.

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on. - Havelock Ellis

Now it’s your turn?

How can you apply one of these ideas to your leadership skills?

What attribute have you seen from a manager that helped you deal with your stress at work?

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