3. Find a solution. Let the person with the problem find the solution.
support their decision
agree a course of action
set a review date
let them know the door is always open.
And here are a few counselling pitfalls to avoid:
Don’t try to fill every silence.
Don’t say ‘I understand’.
Don’t judge.
Don’t give advice.
Coping with stress
Certain kinds of stress are perfectly healthy; you could call this positive
stress. Some people work better under pressure – it lends an excitement
to work. If everything is easy, there are no challenges and no deadlines,
and things can get very boring. But there is also negative stress – too
much pressure – which can be counter-productive, unhealthy and even
dangerous. An estimated 1.7 million working days are lost every year in
England and Wales alone due to work-related stress. And of course in
extreme cases stress can lead to serious illness including heart disease. So
it’s clearly important to make sure that none of your team are suffering.
Recognising the signs
The symptoms of stress vary according to the degree of it. Early warn-
ing signs to watch out for include:
taking work home regularly
failing to take holidays.
The people who suffer these particular symptoms tend to drive them-
selves to achieve more and better all the time. They often start out
enjoying the pressure they put themselves under. But it generally gets
on top of them sooner or later, and they find it hard to ease off because
their productivity will obviously drop if they go back to working an
eight hour day. What they often fail to realise is that eventually their
productivity will drop anyway as a result of mounting stress.
If things progress unchecked, other signs can emerge:
criticising other people
carrying out tasks in a panicky or flappy manner
poor concentration
poor memory
complaining of headaches or back pain.
Obviously some people are naturally more critical or irritable than
others. So, as with personal problems that interfere with work, the
thing to look out for is any change in behaviour.
Eventually, in the serious stages, the signs you should notice include:
lack of commitment
lack of enjoyment in their work
a tendency to catch every bug going round
sudden outbursts of emotion or shaking.
Identifying the causes
Once you have established that someone on your team is stressed, you
need to try to work out why. It helps if you can do this before you talk
to them about it (it will only take you a few minutes to sit down and
think it through), because it will be helpful to consider solutions that
are in your power rather than theirs to apply, before you sit down and
discuss it with them.
Here are the most common causes of stress at work; go through them
and see which you think might apply:
too many deadlines, or deadlines that are too tight
frequent interruptions making it impossible to get anything done
poor performance
long hours
workload too heavy
poor prioritising
isolated working conditions
bad working relationships
insecurity/fear of redundancy
internal conflict (work vs home, or employer’s demands vs profes-
sional standards).
These are the most common causes of work-related stress, but obvi-
ously the list is not complete. There may be conditions that are peculiar
to your team that are contributing to stress among its members so you
need to consider these as well.
You should find as you work through the list that you can narrow down
the causes of stress in the team member you are concerned about, and
may well be able to identify the solution quite easily.
Finding the solutions
Stress affects people similarly to the kind of personal problems that we
have just looked at, so it’s hardly surprising that it needs to be handled in
a similar fashion. Not only that, but it may actually be one of those per-
sonal problems. If you can’t find a ready explanation for someone’s
stressed behaviour, it may be that the cause is not work-related. They
could be going through a stressful situation of some kind in their personal

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