Just recently I was talking to a team member who was really stressed out about part of her work. I remember thinking,

“Why are you so uptight?! This is not a big deal. You should be able to handle this with no problem!”

In the past, I probably would have spoken those thoughts out loud. And then I would have regretted it, because I would have come across as insensitive and angry. I would not have solved her stress problem, and I would have displayed ignorance and lack of understanding of her work.

HOW do you help your team manage stress, anxiety, and burnout? Here are three ways to get started that don’t cost any money.


#1 Recognize that people experience stress differently

What is stressful for one person may not even bother someone else. It might seem to not be a big deal to you, but you really can’t assume anything. The moment you act like it should not be stressful, you come across as condescending and uncaring. If your team member is stressed, start by acknowledging the reality of that stress without trying to minimize it or solve it on the spot.

The two biggest requirements for taking this approach are for the team leader to listen without judging and demonstrate patience. Ask your teammate,

“Would you tell me what it is about this situation that is causing you to be stressed?”

Even if you don’t have any new ideas to help them, you are giving them a gift by letting them talk it through (and showing that you care). In our research, employees report “lack of social support at work” as a major stressor. Listening alone reduces stress.



#2 Give them the power to do something about it

Nothing is worse than feeling stressed AND helpless. If you can’t change the stress, then change the “helpless” part by giving your team members the power to do something about it. Start by helping them think through their options. Try asking,

“Which part(s) of this situation are within your sphere of control? What options do you have open to you?”

There are a thousand things you and your team can’t control, and those are all stressful. On the other hand, there are levers of control your team can access or influence. You may be able to authorize your team member to take action right there on the spot. Or maybe you know of an option they are not aware of or not thinking of. By asking them to think about what is within their control, you focus their mind on action rather than helplessness.


#3 Help them take ownership of their stress

Along with the power you give them comes their responsibility to take ownership of their stress levels and their public response to stress. Just because a team member is stressed does not give them permission to snap at others, be irritable or withdrawn, or mope around the office.

After you’ve helped them talk through why they are stressed and directed them to consider what areas of influence or control they still have, it’s time to elevate your team to a new level of self-leadership. Ask them,

“If you were to take full ownership of your stress level and response to stress in this situation, what would that look like?”

It’s important at this point to restrain your ideas, solutions, and impatience. If it’s going to work, they really have to arrive at the solution on their own. They may come up with something as simple as taking a 5-minute walk around the building each time they have to talk to that demanding and rude customer. Or they may use one of the many stress-relieving techniques available online (listening to music, deep breathing, relaxation, meditation, exercise, getting more sleep, not procrastinating, etc).

Whatever they come up with, don’t critique it or offer any improvements. Just thank them and ask them to check in with you in a few days to let you know how it’s going. A team member that can self-regulate is a team member you don’t have to manage!


There are seven hidden causes of most workplace stress. Do you know which ones are affecting your team today? We can show you what’s going on in just a few minutes.

Get a free test drive of our Stress Assessment. It only takes 10 minutes, and you will get the full results instantly. Or you can start by downloading a sample report.

Comment below to share what you do to help your team beat stress.




Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Dr. Shero believes that leadership can be learned and that the best organizations intentionally develop leadership at every level. Leaders have the privilege of influencing other human lives for the better. That's why Phillip cares so much about learning to lead well and helping others do the same.

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