Blog list ...

Stress management in the workplace

 The BMJ (British Medical Journal) document  ‘Occupational and Environmental Medicine”  indicates that stress arises from situations “that are unpredictable or uncontrollable, uncertain, ambiguous or unfamiliar, or involving conflict, loss or performance expectation”.  

We have certainly all had that feeling at one time or another, the sense of loss of control, things running away from us. What can we do about it?

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Getting great results

Developing and demonstrating talent is a key part of our individual happiness, and the workplace is of course the most common environment to focus on our key areas of talent. We expect to achieve results at work, and the ideal is when we can fully use talent to enable those results.

Often in the workplace we find ourselves doing things we are not particularly talented at, or perhaps don’t particularly like doing. Attending some of those meetings comes to mind as a common example! Or perhaps admin work, or performance management issues. The greatest buzz we can get is when our full talent is used, stress seems to be more invasive when we are doing activities we are not particularly suited to or enjoying.

Viktor Frankl was a concentration camp survivor who became a psychologist and wrote the astounding book "Man’s Search for Meaning". I would personally put this book as one of the ‘must reads’, Frankl’s observation was that with a sense of meaning we can endure anything, without it we are lost.

Using Frankl’s principle, I would suggest we need a sense of meaning to achieve great results at work. This is more than a sense of purpose (after all, a sense of purpose could simply be “work hard and get my work done on time!!). Meaning is a sense of purpose along with a satisfaction that we meet our own personal values.

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Make your voice work for you

I am in a restaurant in Russia. (OK, I’m not, but imagine I am.) I hear arguing from a couple on a table behind me. I don’t speak Russian. I can’t see them. So, how do I know they are arguing?

Pace, tone articulation. 

Sound advice
When we have a job interview or an important business meeting what do we plan? We plan what clothes will be suitable and we know that what we are wearing can affect how comfortable and confident we feel, and therefore appear to others. We think about body language and how to use this to appear a certain way. We prepare what we will say because we know that using the right vocabulary will communicate exactly what we wish to. But how many of us think about the way in which we will speak the words? Are we aware of what tone of voice to use? Do we know that we can consciously adapt our voice to communicate so much more than the meaning of the words? 

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Getting Returnship Right: Returnship Programmes

Returnship programmes set to increase within the UK…

‘Returnship’ programmes are set to rise further into 2019 with the government having already invested £5million into them in the 2017 budget, and further investment in 2018. Returnship programmes haven’t been around for very long, having been first introduced in the US by Goldman Sachs in 2008, the first UK schemes were only launched in 2014. 

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Work life balance - is there such a thing?

“An estimated 137 million working days were lost due to sickness or injury in the UK in 2016, according to a new report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This was equivalent to 4.3 days per worker, the lowest recorded rate since the series began in 1993, when the number was 7.2 days per worker.”

Commenting on the findings of the report, ONS statistician Brendan Freeman said: 

“Since 2003, there has been a fairly steady decline in the number of working days lost to sickness, especially during the economic downturn. In recent years, there has been a small rise in the number of days lost, but due to an increasing number of people entering the workforce, the rate per worker and overall sickness absence rate have stayed largely flat.”

The story we are familiar with is of an increasingly tense workplace which demands more of us. It is a good thing to question assumptions sometimes, and the above quote is fascinatingly challenging, and suggests it is possible that things are getting better not worse.  

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The power of your voice

Some voices seem to command instant attention. Actors and singers spend a lot of time learning how to do this, often we forget that the voice is based on muscles, and muscles can be trained. So all of us can learn, should we choose, to have voices which command attention.

 The tone of our voice is important of course, and muscle structure helps with this. But pace and volume matter as well, and these can be adjusted perhaps more easily. We dress for the occasion, perhaps we should think of adapting our voice for the occasion!

Here are some thoughts on how we could do that. 

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Time to think ... reflection time for personal effectiveness

We always assume that personal performance improvement involves significant shifts in the way that people behave.  Some delegates on my programmes are concerned about having to ‘alter their personality’ in order to be successful.  From my experience, and from my studies into taking time out in the week to reflect, I have noted that small incremental shifts can reap huge benefits in peoples’ effectiveness. 

Taking time out to reflect regularly is not confined to leaders and managers, but can improve personal impact for anyone.  In fact, the roots of reflective practice can be found in professions such as the medical and social services.  Reviews of social and medical cases often create learning opportunities, avoid significant mistakes in the future and improve standards.

So how can anyone use reflection in their day to support their personal impact at work?  There are a number of scenarios which provide opportunities to develop personal effectiveness....

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Failure to face failure?

The military has quite a decent record in facing possible failure and adjusting accordingly. In fact, 360-degree appraisals were the first known use of a multiple-source feedback method was during World War II, by the German military. Although it lacked the current name, the concept was the same. Soldiers were evaluated by peers, supervisors and subordinates to provide insight and recommendations on how to improve performance.

The great idea of course behind 360's is that the individual receives more data about him/her self. That should enable a few warning signals to become visible so that the individual can avoid possible failure points.

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Reflection time as a manager pays huge dividends

Whilst coaching managers, the conversations often turn towards the guilt managers feel about the way they have responded to different people issues.  “If only I had listened to what they really wanted…”, “if only I had not snapped back...” The problem with regret is that you don’t proactively learn from mistakes, but wallow in what could have been.

The power of taking time out to think helps leaders shape future responses.  By using a structure to think about a situation that has already happened managers can unpack why they responded in certain way and how they could have responded differently.  In this way the brain begins to forge new neural pathways within their unconscious, alerts them when similar situations arise so they have the opportunity to choose a different approach.

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