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  • Writer's pictureJohn J Lowe

How to manage stress at my work

Updated: Jun 1

When I am coaching candidates on stress management, firstly I identify their personality working type and use this vital information to alleviate their vulnerability.

Most of us experience an element of stress in our working lives. Its intensity will vary and be mainly dependent on the following causal factors: your personality type, your work performance and environment, and your personal circumstances.

If you suffer an unexpected and close family bereavement and you are not coping with the pressures of work, then the combination can cause negative stress and greatly influence your performance.

Having a better understanding of what is the most likely factor to cause you stress can help you to recognise the symptoms and alleviate the stress through positive management. It is important to acknowledge that most people do not realise when they are suffering from negative stress. There is a tendency to be defensive when told ‘You seem stressed!’ ‘No, I am not stressed, just very busy at work. Nothing I can’t cope with.’ Stress can cause denial, whereby the person will adopt a defensive attitude and it can be difficult to help or speak rationally to them regarding their problem.

It is a shame that stress can cause so much unhappiness in terms of the quality of life, to the point sometimes of causing bad health such as strokes and heart attacks or mental breakdowns, before any remedial action is taken. You will be familiar with the type of comment:

‘Since my heart attack I have learned to get my priorities right. I exercise, eat better, enjoy work and all round I am much happier.’

It is a shame that it has taken a catastrophic event to acknowledge the negativity of stress and re-adjust a lifestyle.

The following information may help you to become more alert to situations or circumstances with which you may find difficulty coping. Good advice is always to use external parameters as an indication of stress rather than your emotive reaction. If you feel the stress is negatively influencing your work performance, then force yourself to discuss the situation with a friend.

Disclosure and discussion always help to gain a different perspective on an issue that is worrying you. It can be easy for a third party to recommend another way, a solution and help you to implement it. This is a satisfying and rewarding part of my role as a coach.

I have identified 4 very distinct and different personality types: the Supporter, the Influencer, the Creative and the Analyst and I use this knowledge in all my 1-2-1 coaching sessions with very exciting and positive outcomes.

The Supporter and stress

The Supporter is sensitive to the work environment from the people perspective.

An aggressive and uncaring atmosphere at work will cause the Supporter stress. An aggressive and uncaring colleague or manager at work will similarly cause stress.

The Supporter’s natural inclination is to avoid contentious situations rather than confront them as this is not compliant with their sensitive nature.

Domineering or bullying types will tend to capitalise on the Supporter’s rather placatory persona and their behaviour can become more intimidating and stressful.

It is difficult to coach a Supporter to deal with these types of extreme behaviour on their own. The most successful approach is to ask for help and discuss the situation with a work colleague or manager. For the situation to be effectively dealt with, it is imperative that the perpetrator is contacted by a third party and made aware of the complaint. In many situations, the person may not be aware of the extent of their intimidating behaviour and most often their response is conciliatory rather than defensive. In my experience this type of action generates a personal apology and a cessation of the problem.

The Supporter must be prepared to ask for help and refer to a colleague and follow the colleague’s advice to actively confront the situation. Taking no course of action will cause the stress to increase and create a situation of unhappiness and severe pressure on the work and family environment. Ignoring the issue is not an option.

The Influencer and stress

The Influencer thrives on recognition and acknowledgement of achievements. They are generally not prone to stress, as they tend to share their problems with whomever is prepared to listen. This sharing, or to put it more unkindly off-loading, means that problems don’t tend to fester in their minds. If a problem arises, the Influencer will not naturally volunteer ownership if it reflects negatively on their reputation.

The Influencer has a large ego and they are protective of their reputation, vehemently defending any misunderstanding that negatively reflects on their personality or achievements. If the Influencer is wrongly accused and the accusation reflects negatively on them, they will ‘move verbal mountains’ to clarify the situation and rectify the mistake that dents their ego.

Situations where the Influencer is not given due credit for performance or is misunderstood will cause stress. The Influencer plays to win and if there is no benchmark for competitiveness and high profiling, then they will become frustrated and bored. Work that is highly repetitive, monotonous and with no transparent goals for achievement will cause them frustration and the likelihood of changing roles.

Not gaining fair recognition, not being able to perform competitively, being misunderstood, misinterpreted or being falsely accused are the dominant situations that will cause stress to the Influencer. The Influencer can solve their own problems as they are good with people and highly articulate. Therefore if they do not have the opportunity to perform or clear their name, the Influencer will feel caged and these circumstances would be intolerably stressful.

The Creative and stress

For the Creative the causal factor for stress will be work related. The Creative has been described as a well-defined personality type with individual traits. The ability to conceptualise is unique. The ability to create is unique to the Creative whether it is a product, a building, a musical composition, fine art, media or graphics, etc. all of which are different, radical and instrumental in the generation of global sales on an unprecedented basis.

Unlike the other personality traits where one can identify a single factor which is the dominant cause of stress, the Creative can be negatively influenced and frustrated by a number of factors.

Working in a highly-disorganised environment, unable to use their design and creative abilities and working in a role that lacks challenge or is repetitive and boring, are factors that singularly or collectively will cause the Creative to be stressed. Similarly, an environment where their talents are not appreciated but disregarded and critiqued, will cause the Creative to lose confidence in their abilities and the resultant lack of benefit of their work will cause stress. They are not good at just ‘playing the game’. Very often the only solution is to change role or job, advice which will probably clarify or explain why Creatives change roles more than the average or why they often prefer to work freelance.

The Creative could be coached to adopt a more tolerant attitude but that approach is more likely to be at the expense of losing some of that positive dynamism that can be the key to their success.

The Analyst and stress

Similar to the Creative, the factor that will cause the most stress to the Analyst will be poor project definition and time. It will be directly work related. The Analyst views the developmental perspective in parallel with the end goal. Their mentality is such that diligently fulfilling the role to a satisfactory technical conclusion is their prime focus – time deadlines can at times be secondary considerations.

If there is a time overrun and the cause is outside the control of the Analyst, most often they will not explain this fact. Anything smacking of an excuse is anathema to the Analyst. They do not vehemently defend their corner as the Influencer would do and they do not indulge in blame culture. The Analyst needs to be convinced that the time target is real and that the overrun consequences are also real.

‘They always want things done by yesterday. They don’t understand the complexity of the content. You can’t rush these things. They are complicated and you have to get it right however long it takes.’

This type of typical reaction from the Analyst can cause frustration to those to whom they are reporting and the Analyst will not enjoy the criticism this type of insular reaction will evoke. To alleviate the stress from ‘unprovoked negative reactions’ (as an Analyst might consider), the Analyst must explain in detail the components of the task in terms of content, complexity parameters and the aspects which, at the early stages, may not be definitive. A car engine may appear to have a particular fault as a result of the noise it is making, but the mechanic will make the proviso that they cannot ascertain the problem until they dismantle the particular parts and examine it personally. The Analyst must explain the process even though it is not their natural remit. This will share the time onus in terms of defining a target and will alleviate the stress caused by overrunning the target.

Detailed explanations help to depersonalise situations and by continually briefing colleagues on the progress of the task, the Analyst will fend off those stressful, irate reactions to their apparent lack of time priorities.

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