Ongoing stress is a choice. If you are still stressed, it’s because you have chosen to accept stress.
Of course you are still stressed
We all face unexpected situations that create stress in our lives. Some of these situations are outside our control. But if you are living in stress, if you are swimming in stress, you can’t continue to blame it on your circumstances. You have made a choice.
If you are like most people, you probably don’t like hearing that you are responsible for your problems. We come up with all kinds of excuses to explain why it’s not our fault. Let’s deal with two common explanations for persistent stress head on. Or in other words, here come the “buts.”
…but my industry/job is inherently stressful.
Are some jobs more stressful than others? Sure. Emergency room nurses have stressful jobs—life and death are on the line. Space capsule pilots have a stressful job—their lives and the lives of their crew are on the line. On a different level, anyone who has worked for a truly abusive boss may say that their job was stressful. Is your job stressful, too? Maybe. But that’s not the right question.
Ask yourself: What kind of people are able to do these jobs well over time?
People who do well under stressful conditions have learned how to remain cool under pressure. They have identified the sources of stress and developed routines, processes, and responses that enable them to handle the demands. External stress does not alter their internal calm.
Would you describe these people as proactive or reactive?
Do you think that you could manage stress at work better if you identified where it was coming from and decided in advance:
- how you were going to respond,
- what processes would reduce the stress,
- and what skills you could develop to prepare yourself?
…but I work in a toxic/bad environment.
Are there some real jerks out there in the workplace? No doubt. There are leaders, managers, bosses, and peers that are missing some basic elements of civility and courtesy. If you are in a genuinely bad situation, you do have the choice of looking for a better job (or firing a toxic employee).
But most of us work with people who are not really toxic, they’re just problematic in one way or another.
If you are a leader, you know how valuable it is to have an employee who can navigate those problematic relationships, work well with all kinds of people, and still get things done.
Ask yourself: Do you believe those people-savvy employees are that way naturally, or have they made choices and developed skills that enable them to be successful at resolving conflict and remaining effective?
I am convinced that most people can learn to work more effectively with others, which is why I invest so much energy in team-building and leadership development. If interpersonal conflict is a primary source of stress in your business, you can make a choice to intentionally work on building relationships and creating a culture that does not allow problems to fester.
I don’t mean to oversimplify stressful situations. But I do intend to empower leaders to take a hard look at where the stress is coming from and take responsibility for change.
I honestly would like to hear from you: What is your explanation for the persistent stress in your work environment?
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