There’s no question about it: today’s workplace can be stressful. The long work hours, the endless flow of information, the competing demands on our attention, the rapid changes and uncertainty they bring—all of these factors and too many others to list can make us feel perpetually overwhelmed and out of control if not managed well.
Yet the conditions that lead to stress are not “bad.” They’re just reality. Every time in history has had its own set of stressors. And if you are a productive person your plate is always going to be full. When the conditions are managed well, they create incredibly fulfilling work. We can be grateful for that while also acknowledging that it’s not easy. But I always like to come back to what Scott Peck said in The Road Less Traveled: “Once we truly know that life is difficult—once we truly understand and accept it—then life is no longer difficult.”
It’s the leader’s job to deal with the conditions and problems that lead to stress in a way that keeps everyone on track. (Think about it this way: if things always went well we wouldn’t even need leaders!) And middle managers face even more of a challenge because they have to balance the needs (and stress) of their team with the expectations (and stress) of their leaders.
All that said, how we manage ourselves in the middle of the storm is everything. Relationships are defined by how we behave under stress. Difficult, busy times ...