White Paper Mentor Series:  Burned Out  - Authored by Khalil Rehmen
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in...5
×
 

White Paper Mentor Series: Burned Out - Authored by Khalil Rehmen

on

  • 1,261 views

 

Statistics

Views

Total Views
1,261
Views on SlideShare
1,253
Embed Views
8

Actions

Likes
2
Downloads
20
Comments
0

2 Embeds 8

http://www.lmodules.com 6
http://www.linkedin.com 2

Accessibility

Categories

Upload Details

Uploaded via as Adobe PDF

Usage Rights

© All Rights Reserved

Report content

Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

Cancel
  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
    Are you sure you want to
    Your message goes here
    Processing…
Post Comment
Edit your comment

    White Paper Mentor Series:  Burned Out  - Authored by Khalil Rehmen White Paper Mentor Series: Burned Out - Authored by Khalil Rehmen Document Transcript

    • White Paper Mentor Series: Burned Out Authored by Khalil Rehman
    • White Paper Mentor Series: Burned Out Authored by Khalil Rehman October 2009 © 2009 OracleContractors.com. All rights reserved. All other third party trademarks and registered trademarks are acknowledged. White Papers by Contractors Network Ltd This is one of a series of White Papers published by Contractors Network Ltd, each one focussing on a specific aspect of Oracle. Further copies of this and other White Papers can be obtained free of charge by contacting us at whitepapers@Oraclecontractors.com or the address below. If you have found the content of this White Paper interesting and useful, and wish to explore the subject matter further, we can introduce you to independent experts in this field. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 1
    • CONTENTS ABO U T C ON T RA CT O RS N ET W O RK ................................................................... 4 ABOUT THE AUTHOR ................................................................................................ 5 BURNED OUT ............................................................................................................ 6 What is stress ............................................................................................................... 7 What are the stages of stress......................................................................................... 8 Is all stress bad........................................................................................................... 11 What determines whether a situation creates positive or negative stress ........................ 12 How long does stress last ............................................................................................ 13 What are the extreme forms of stress........................................................................... 15 What are the four stages of burnout............................................................................. 16 What sources of stress are job-related.......................................................................... 19 What sources of stress are personal ............................................................................. 26 What sources of stress does society impose .................................................................. 28 What are the common responses to stress.................................................................... 30 How does stress reveal itself ........................................................................................ 32 What are internal sources of stress............................................................................... 33 What changes should I make in my life to reduce stress ................................................ 34 How can I physically reduce stress ............................................................................... 36 How does nutrition affect stress ................................................................................... 37 What psychological actions reduce stress...................................................................... 38 What personal attitudes affect stress levels................................................................... 40 How can I improve my attitude .................................................................................... 40 Why are communication skills crucial in stress management .......................................... 42 How can I strengthen my workplace relationships to avoid stress ................................... 43 How do good time management skills reduce stress ...................................................... 45 What are some effective time management skills .......................................................... 46 Why is goal setting essential for stress management ..................................................... 48 What are the behavioural warning signs of excessive stress ........................................... 50 What are the emotional warning signs of excessive stress.............................................. 52 White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 2
    • What are the physical warning signs of excessive stress ................................................ 53 What strategies can I use to help employees deal with change ...................................... 53 How can I make jobs more enjoyable for employees ..................................................... 55 How can I help my employees handle conflicts.............................................................. 56 As a manager, how can I help my employees avoid burnout........................................... 57 White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 3
    • ABO U T C ON T RA CT O RS N ET W O RK Contractors Network Ltd is a Global Oracle Contractors Network with primary focus on Oracle's E-Business Suite.  We are operated by Contractors Network Ltd with 11 offices worldwide.  We offer Contractor Resourcing with access to over 10,000 pre-qualified Oracle Applications Contractors through our local offices.  We have an innovative and cost effective model for Implementations & Upgrades - our 'Hybrid Team' solution.  We are able to offer access to Global Resolution Groups for adhoc work from as little as 15 minute increments  We provide the only global Oracle specific job search engine with a view of 10,000 + Oracle specific roles.  We interact with over 15,000 client personnel involved with the Oracle E- Business Suite.  We promote a community spirit through an Apps Blog, with 50 + Regional Authors that produce 20 articles a months.  We are a Publishing House for White Papers authored by Oracle Contractors and distribute these free, to clients and Contractors alike.  We offer access for training and demonstration of the latest release via an online Vision environment at no cost.  We offer Oracle Contractors special membership to a network of Oracle User Groups, under our umbrella, at a discounted rate. We exhibit & present at all Regional Oracle Conferences worldwide as well as local Special Interest Groups. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 4
    • ABOUT THE AUTHOR Khalil Rehman Over the last twenty two years I have been involved in countless transformation programmes. BP Oil was wildly successful and we rolled out to all the European countries. Others were sabotaged by powerful stakeholders who feared the change would weaken their authority. Then we came across resistance from employees at Sandwell MBC who feared that progress would cost them their jobs. In all these cases the underlying cause for the success or failure of the ERP transformation project was the ability to engage the senior stakeholders and employees in the need for the change. A very successful programme that illustrated this was the Electronic Staff Records programme run by McKesson’s at the NHS. I used my experiences to develop the following course which has been delivered to ERP project teams at PWC, Atos Origin Middle East and Liberata. Khalil Rehman is available for consultancy to new clients about to undergo an ERP project and want to know what to expect from an IT, projects or business perspective. He provides expertise in complex projects which are currently failing and need strong leadership and Oracle expertise to bring them back on course White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 5
    • BURNED OUT One of the common reasons for project failure is the burn out of senior project team members during an ERP implementation. It’s not surprising given the increasing demands placed upon them. We are asked to achieve more results with fewer resources and keep everyone happy. Just look at Roy Keane one day all is well the next he looks old, tired and unkempt with a loss of appetite for life, these are all signs of executive stress, or burn out as they call it in the consulting profession. My company runs weekend workshops with senior project executives to coach them to cope better with the stresses of an Oracle / SAP ERP Implementation which could last 12-18 months taking them out of their comfort zone and placing them in the unknown world of ERP Transformation programmes. I have used a lot of sporting analogies to illustrate the points but the points made are serious and do have parallels with the sporting arena which produces the stresses (highs and lows) encountered in work life. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 6
    • What is stress Stress is your body's physical and emotional reaction to demands. The demands may be small or extensive, short or long-term, and perceived as positive or negative by different people. The demands may be to complete an Oracle implementation for a Company like Pepsi with some really complex demands but with a tiny budget that means you can’t afford experienced staff. Alternatively it could mean fighting for survival in the premier league for teams such as Newcastle United (with rewards of £50m annually) with a second string team who leak goals for fun. Why does stress need to be managed You must learn to manage your stress because unmanaged stress usually has negative outcomes. It can create problems in your personal life and in your job, and it can also lead you to be less productive. Properly managed stress allows you to experience a level of stress that will challenge you to reach and help you exceed your goals. In my own experience at the start of my project management career I frequently took work problems home with me. Things got worse when I was working in the Middle East or Europe, White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 7
    • working far from home I was working and breathing the project 24/7 and I became overbearing with my project team. Conversely I have worked on projects that have not stretched me at all and I had died of boredom. If you are a true professional you can’t just be in it for the money. There has to be a challenge that makes you want to get in to work early and succeed at your chosen profession. What are the stages of stress There are three stages you go through when you encounter stress.  The alarm stage  The respond stage  The recovery stage The alarm stage At the first sign of a stressful situation, your body releases adrenaline into your bloodstream to increase your heart rate, dilate your pupils, and tense your muscles. The stress may be physical or emotional, but the initial effects on your body will be the same. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 8
    • I thought I was at the alarm stage when my wife decided to go into labour 15 minutes before Manchester United were playing in the finals of the Champions’ League a few years ago. However it was a false alarm. The alarm stage didn’t start until Ronaldo missed the penalty in extra time. The respond stage The second stage of the stress reaction, also known as the fight or flight response. You reach this stage when your body is poised and ready to either confront the stress or avoid it. This often happens when you are walking quietly and turn up at the wrong place at the wrong time such as in the middle of a gang fight between rival Celtic and Rangers fans a few hours before kick-off. I am not normally one to advocate flight but that certainly was one day I could have beaten Usain Bolt hands down. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 9
    • The recovery stage When the threat or challenge is removed or overthrown, your body stops producing adrenaline and returns to normal. You feel drained by the experience and need some time to recover fully. About five years ago I was working as a Project Manager on a site with a Senior Response Officer to report to who had been sacked as the last PM, a senior user who had also been sacked as PM a year previously and a supplier who had managed to bill over £1/2m creating useless documentation without engaging the users. Working on this project brought such highs and lows. I remember after managing to go-live in 24 geographical sites in 6 months by running 4 simultaneous teams I had served my purpose and I was also sacked. We had more Project Managers than the English National football team. At the time it was a shock, being sacked for doing a job too well. I was drained by the whole experience for months. Just ask Kevin Keegan about stress after bringing the folks of White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 10
    • Newcastle back to life with his brand of exciting football, he was undermined by the executives bringing in Mr Wise to shadow his every move. Is all stress bad Most people view stress negatively and see it as interference in their lives. However, stress can be both negative and positive. Negative stress The normal stress stages of alarm, response and recovery must include enough time for the body to recover before the next stressful situation. If not enough time is allowed for the completion of each of the stages of stress, your stress levels will increase to a point at which you experience an excessive or negative amount of stress. Excessive stress can lead to anger, depression, lack of energy and low self-esteem. Anyone who knows me well will testify that these are hard fought lessons you are getting in this paragraph, my reaction is normally to turn into Mr Angry; just ask Mike Green at South Birmingham PCT. He is my Project Board member and often hears me rant and rave about the incompetence’s of the Shared Services organisation we are supposed to rely on. Positive stress Positive stress is the motivation that enables you to perform your normal duties and functions. This kind of stress helps you complete challenging tasks and reach your goals on a daily basis. It is the feeling of satisfaction you experience when you complete a mentally or physically demanding task. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 11
    • What determines whether a situation creates positive or negative stress You will experience stress as either positive or negative based on two factors.  Your perception  Your resilience Your perception The most basic criteria for assessing the stressfulness of a situation are how you feel about it. A particular event or situation can cause positive reactions in one person and negative reactions in another. In addition, one event can cause mixed feelings within the same person. I always look for the best most experienced staff I can afford on my projects for this very reason. They have usually seen it, done it and got the t-shirt. When a problem comes along they follow the Oracle adage JFDI. If you don’t know what that means, ask someone from the IT department. I’ll give you a clue Just F******Do It. Some people do their best work under pressure, while pressure can seriously impede the productivity of another person. Your resilience I have had over 35 year’s martial arts experience and taken countless knocks along the way so when I encounter a project problem I can usually be philosophical. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from a difficult situation, or adjust to the demands of a new situation. Some people are able to accomplish this change easily, while others find it difficult. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 12
    • The more resilient you are to a stressful situation, the more likely you will be able to view that stress as positive. However, I always look for closure; I need to resolve issues quickly and not let things fester. Sometimes making compromises when I know I am right hurts. Like continually having to put up with a crap supplier when it would be for the greater good to ditch the dead weight creates negative stress because every time they screw up they dredge up those old feelings and makes the situation much worse than it really is. How long does stress last If you ask my wife she will answer “a lifetime”. Stress can be categorised in two ways based on the amount of time you experience it.  Situational stress  Long-term stress Situational stress A sudden moment or one minor instance of stress is called the situational stress factor. These situations happen rapidly. The cause of the stress is removed quickly, and then the person recovers. Long-term stress Difficult situations that continue over long periods of time can build up to become a serious form of stress that is not easily resolved. Long-term stress is more serious than situational stress because it has the potential to cause harm to a person. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 13
    • This happens a lot in ERP Transformation Programmes when serious problems are NOT addressed immediately. I have worked on programmes when their have been multiple partners supplying their services to an end client such as a Borough Council. In theory all partners have their own terms of reference and scope. In reality there is often a turf war where one partner wishes to take a bigger slice of the cake. This often leads to a breakdown in the relationship. Why is it necessary to follow a process in order to manage stress? Following a process to reduce stress helps you develop the habits necessary to manage stress over the long-term. Healthy responses to stress become more automated the more you practise these habits in an organised fashion. You need to identify the source of your stress and then make internal and external changes to manage stress in a healthy manner. I often go to the gym at 6am to set myself up for a days work and even at the end of the day to get rid of stress and tension built up through work. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 14
    • What are the extreme forms of stress There are two extreme forms of stress you can experience:  Rust out  Burnout Rust out Rust out is the result of experiencing not enough stress. You need a healthy amount of stress in order to be motivated to perform your daily functions. When you are not challenged by your tasks, feel that your job is boring and repetitive, and see no immediate way of changing the situation, you risk experiencing rust out. Although rust out is the result of not experiencing enough stress, this situation can lead to increased stress levels if you feel there is no way to change the circumstance. Over the years I have come across consultants who just wanted to watch the clock and collect the paycheque. They certainly didn’t want the stress of actually responding to customers needs so they would hide behind bureaucracy. This can be rewarding in the short term in terms of taking less work stress. However, over time your body starts losing its mental muscles through lack of exercise. This leads you to lose your sharpness and value as a consultant. These people are normally prime candidates to return to permanent employments as they can no longer cut it in the high pressure world of consultancy. Burnout Burnout is the condition experienced when you are physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted by stress and can no longer cope with the ongoing pressure. Because of its seriousness and frequency in ERP transformation programmes I decided to make this the main area for discussion. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 15
    • What are the four stages of burnout You should be aware of the four stages of burnout: 1. Reality 2. Frustration 3. Stagnation 4. Apathy 1. Reality Once the novelty or excitement of a new challenge wears off, you are faced with the reality that accomplishing the task will be stressful in the long run. On most Oracle Projects I have worked on this honeymoon period usually lasts about a month. The typical project is 12-18 months so you have to be creative to keep the excitement levels high. I have tried job rotation, bringing in new team members for short periods to alter the dynamics or running quality circles to get consultants to give fresh input to problems faced by colleagues. 2. Frustration The second stage of burnout occurs when you try to improve the situation but realise that no amount of extra time or effort will change the conditions. During this stage, your confidence diminishes and you have a tendency to think negatively. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 16
    • This often happens in matrix structured projects when the Project Manager doesn’t have his own budget and staff to complete the project. In this case the team is often frustrated because they are dealt with according to the whims of managers who hold the purse strings or manage their careers and have little to gain from the project succeeding. It is not uncommon to see frustrated employees become less productive and withdraw into their shells. 3. Stagnation During the stagnation stage, you begin to avoid your responsibilities. A cynical attitude may develop, as well as a tendency to worry about others' intentions. Stagnation causes you to have less energy and your productivity declines to the point that colleagues notice. Arguments also become more frequent at work and at home. 4. Apathy Apathy, which is sometimes mistaken for an attitude problem, closely resembles emotional exhaustion. You put minimal effort into anything you do, and hope that no further demands are placed upon you. When suffering from apathy, you feel that you cannot face challenges that require more effort than you are already putting in. In an ERP Transformation programme this behaviour is often observed after the User Acceptance Testing phase. It has been a long haul to do the following:  Understand how the organisation currently works “As Is” analysis  Establish user requirements  Demonstrate possible solutions at Conference Room Pilot stage White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 17
    •  Identify the gaps between what is required and what is deliverable within the budget constraints.  Configure the new system  Conduct User acceptance testing At this stage most of the project team are just plain burned out. They physically and mentally take any more. I usually reward my teams with a celebration at UAT stage. We also do some team bonding exercises with invites to the user community so we can get through this apathy phase quickly keeping in mind that the programme is a partnership of staff, customers and systems. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 18
    • What sources of stress are job-related Many aspects of a job can cause stress. Some of the more common ones include:  Being over employed  Being underemployed  Role confusion  Relationships  Lack of recognition  Uncertainty about the future  Lack of control  Corporate culture  Harassment Being over employed You are over employed when your job duties do not match your qualifications and you do not feel adequately trained for your position. Your stress levels will increase until you are able to learn the skills you need to fulfil your responsibilities. I have frequently been on projects where line managers have thrown junior staff into the Lions Den of the Transformation programme. Initially they get little support from there line managers who just want rid of them. They get little support from the PM who can’t see a use for this inexperienced person. If this person is switched on they will network and make friends with key players in the team who will help them identify suitable roles on the team. They then identify suitable training and tasks that can be delegated. This person then acts as a mentor to get the budget and training for the new team member. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 19
    • If this networking does NOT take place the new person just explodes one day when they can no longer cope with the demands of a job for which they are not suited. At this stage the line manager tries to save face and identify some useful training as identified by the project team. Being underemployed When your level of experience is substantially higher than the expertise required for your job, you might feel frustration due to the lack of challenges offered to you. If the situation continues and you have no way to change it, your frustration will lead to increased stress. I was in this position at the Department of Health quite recently. Initially hired as a PM to direct the transformation when I turned up on site the reality was that the client already had a supplier who had been with them for three years. My employer was a large consultancy who wanted to seamlessly take over the service for as little cost as possible. They cut corners and consequently the client service started suffering. I could see the problems emerging and tried communicating to the “suits” that would come in for meetings with the operational directors. The fact was simply that they couldn’t care less if the end client was suffering as long as they were billing for their staff. They ignored the useful feedback until they were threatened with cancellation of their contract until service improved. The result was that DH reduced number of consultants and started issuing very short term contracts to keep the new supplier on their toes. Role confusion If you are unsure about your responsibilities at work, you will experience increased amounts of stress. You need a clear, written job description so you are not overwhelmed with inappropriate job demands. A job description allows you to make sure you are qualified for the tasks assigned to you. I normally have a kick off meeting with my consultants where we write down our job roles. I then make changes and sign off as appropriate. Thereafter we both have objective limits on what to expect from each other. Occasionally I will need to bring in extra resource to help my team cope with planned levels of extra work. I get the consultants to use their job descriptions to map out the planned tasks to the project plan so there is nothing being forced on them and they can’t claim ignorance. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 20
    • Relationships Good relationships with your supervisors and colleagues are crucial to an enjoyable work environment. All employees have the right to be treated with respect by peers, supervisors and subordinates. If you are not shown respect in your workplace, you are at risk of experiencing an excessive amount of stress because you will feel unvalued and unappreciated. This is such an important part of the course and in fact your successes working on a project that I normally have at least one social activity with all of the team every month. I can’t make attendance mandatory but absence is noted and I know I have to investigate for possible relationship issues. I have done all the standard projects nights out like ten pin bowling, meals, comedy store, go-carting etc… It is important to help people from different cultures mix in to the team as smoothly as possible and this can be a tricky area as one solution does not fix all your problems. I once work for a really nice guy who was a programme director who used to build relationships with his key staff at the pub. He tried this with me a few times but I kept declining. He hadn’t realised that as a Muslim I would feel uncomfortable in this environment. Eventually I suggested we go for a meal where he insisted on buying me a beer. I knew his heart was in the right place so didn’t take offence. Not everyone is as forgiving. I once made the mistake of asking a new member of staff from WIPRO to make some teas and coffees for the team meeting. We all used to take it in turns. I hadn’t realised that this person was from a high caste “Brahmin” and hadn’t worked abroad before. In my mind it was a simple request to a team member that would show he was one of the lads. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 21
    • However in his mind this was a demeaning task to be carried out by Peons and certainly not be allocated to a man of such status. I made this mistake over ten years ago and it still haunts me because this incident caused him to have a breakdown. No matter what I did to rectify the situation I couldn’t reach this person after this faux pas. Lack of recognition It is annoying to achieve a goal and not have your efforts recognised. You need to be recognised for your achievements or you will feel taken for granted, which will increase the amount of excessive stress you encounter. Whilst working on the Electronic Staff Records (ESR) HR/Payroll transformation programme I worked with one consultant who was very jaded and was quite often heard muttering “Do you know who I am?” To customers and managers alike he had been a very senior consultant on previous contracts and had apparently taken this particular role to pay the bills. The way around this situation was to give this person the hardest site to roll-out in North Wales dealing with a particularly difficult customer. The consultant was very successful in building up a relationship with the users and was in the first pilot site to go-live. The consultant was recognised for his services with honourable mentions in the in-house staff magazine and at future team meetings for the next month. Suffice to say he became a mentor to the newer consultants brought in by McKesson’s to roll out the programme. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 22
    • Uncertainty about the future Lack of job security is a common source of stress. If you are part of an organisation faced with mergers, acquisitions, layoffs and changes in top management, you can experience severe and prolonged anxiety over the uncertainty these business changes create. A lot of our ERP Transformation programmes are driven by an agenda to cut costs. This often means job cuts or deployment .In one of my projects in Sandwell MBC I actually saw staff torn between their loyalty to the project team and allegiances to their old team mates in Human Resources who would face potential job losses should the programme succeed. Lack of control Your stress levels increase if you are held accountable for results or achievements over which you have no control. Necessary resources must be supplied and adequate time allocated for the completion of a task. I worked on one particular project where I estimated that I would need two trainers for a six month period to roll-out e-Procurement to over 1000 users. I identified suitable staff, asked for the budget to recruit and booked training rooms. In the end the new management team decided that we had to do the same job without any trainers and in half the time. In the above situation where cost is the driver it is the quality that suffers to meet the new time deadlines. The person caught in the middle suffers from stress because they know they are turning out shoddy work but don’t have the power to do anything about it. In these tough times I see more of this type of stress displayed in projects around the world. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 23
    • Corporate culture Corporate environments may require work commitments to take priority over personal obligations. Some managers deliberately exert pressure on their subordinates as a test of the employees' motivation and commitment. This pressure can lead an employee to put in long hours and feel over-worked. I once worked for Price Waterhouse in their management consultancy services division on a European roll-out of Oracle Applications across six countries over a six month period. The work was high pressured due to work demands and different languages and cultures. The team was made up of PW staff plus contractors like me and local staff from BP Oil. I remember one poor lady who was just unprepared for what hit her when she was volunteered to the team by her line manager. She was a housewife with a young child used to routine patterns of work and couldn’t cope with the flexibility required by the role. A typical week would be as follows. Monday morning fly to Rotterdam for project meetings. After work catch a train to Antwerp to meet senior stakeholders. Wednesday catch flight to Vienna to attend workshop sessions. Thursday fly back to Rotterdam. Friday fly back to United Kingdom. On top of all this we would be socialising together most nights and it just wasn’t her cup of tea. After failing to make a mark in the team for a few weeks she just got burned out by the whole thing. There may also be instances in which you are asked to accept responsibilities that conflict with your job commitments. If you are not able to balance the number of responsibilities you undertake, you will feel overwhelmed by the extra work and may encounter excessive stress. I once worked with a lovely guy who got along with everybody. Just the nicest guy you could hope to have on a project. I returned from some annual leave to discover him seriously stressed out. Further investigations lead me to find out that he had an inability to say “NO!” to anyone. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 24
    • When people asked for his help he kept saying yes. He was such a star that he managed for a while until it suddenly all became too much. His pallor became grey. His energy levels decreased and he was less enthusiastic in team meetings. I ended up identifying the people who were dumping work on Steve and asked if they needed more resource to support them or if they were unable to meet their obligations. This soon put an end to the dumping process. Harassment The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requires employers to provide a workplace free of sexual and gender harassment. If you are experiencing sexual harassment, you will likely feel an excessive amount of stress, especially if you feel there is nothing you can do about the situation. I have come across two cases of sexual harassment in my twenty plus years as a consultant. In the first a senior consultant convinced an Oracle trainer to sleep with him if she wanted a role on the lucrative long term contract. At the time she was earning £100 a day as a Microsoft trainer. A few weeks later and with a few coaching sessions from my colleague she applied to our project as an Oracle Trainer at the daily rate of £300 per day which she enjoyed for 6 months. In the second case I know of a female Project manager who used to coerce male consultants to wine and dine her if they wanted timesheets signed and contracts extended. It was an unbearable situation and one I got out of as soon as possible. I can laugh about it now, but back then when I really needed the money I was tempted to shut my eyes and think of England. The point is that it is not joint male colleagues who do this sort of thing. It is an abuse of power which is often overlooked as a perk by other colleagues. In the above example I sacrificed a contract worth £72000. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 25
    • What sources of stress are personal A great deal of personal stress can come from the following parts of your personal life:  Financial circumstances  The pace of your life  Commitments Financial circumstances It is important to be aware of your financial circumstances, since uncertainty about financial matters can provide a great deal of unhealthy stress. Make realistic short-term and long-term savings and investment goals and commit to working towards them. I remember taking out a mortgage during the late 1980’s when the rate of interest was 8% and I could just about afford the repayments. Over the next year I saw Thatcher take us into one of the worst depressions in living memory. The rates jumped top 15% and I lost my house as I couldn’t keep up with the repayments. I certainly learned my lesson. Years later with my financial debts sorted out I paid off my next mortgage in three years by living like a monk and not wasting money on trying to impress friends and colleagues that I had all the latest toys (Jaguar XJS, Four foreign holidays each year , £1000 custom made suits and the list goes on). It’s not surprising that if your financial circumstances are under threat you can’t give your best at work. Anyone who needs convincing should read the work by Abraham Maslow on motivation. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 26
    • The pace of your life The pace of your life should reflect your level of stress tolerance. When the pace of your life is too hectic, you can experience an excessive amount of stress. You should keep a reasonable schedule of activities in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed. In my younger days I could party hard and work even harder. It was not unknown for me to be at work from 7am till 5pm. off to the gym till 8pm, then off clubbing till 4am. I would do this 3-4 nights each week. Nowadays I still work hard but prefer an early night to gear up for the next days work. I don’t think it’s acceptable to go out on the lash and then not turn up for work or turn up under the weather. This is just unprofessional and has no place in the life of a consultant. Commitments Do not make commitments without feeling reasonably confident that you will be able to fulfil them. If you cannot say 'No' when asked for a favour, your stress levels will rise. Decide on a reasonable amount of assistance and politely excuse yourself from anything beyond this. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 27
    • What sources of stress does society impose Four areas of society can create stressful situations:  Your family  Your friends  Your physical environment  Your community Your family Families can be a great source of encouragement in times of high stress. However, families can also be the source of stress. There are many decisions you and your family need to make in order to keep stress at manageable levels. Two-career families, especially those with children, are frequently confronted with situations causing high stress due to conflicting obligations. Some families experience the stress associated with care of both their children and their elderly parents. I remember quite clearly the stress I encountered during the birth of my first child. At the time I was working with Sun Microsystems in Camberley picking up new skills in Oracle Projects and reporting tools. However with the birth of my child I found my self being pulled in two different directions and unable to satisfy family and work demands. I think my boss Damian Smalley did me a favour by NOT inviting me on a European roll-out as previously planned. Instantly the stress disappeared and I started enjoying my time with my family and at work much more. In the short run I sacrificed a great learning experience with a truly wonderful project team which was lead by an inspirational leader. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 28
    • Your friends Friends can be supportive when you are experiencing stress. Do not withdraw from friends when you are under stress, but be careful not to overwhelm them with your need for support. When your friends need you, be careful not to give up too much of your time, as this can be stressful on you and on the friendship. I have been lucky to have some good friends like Mansoor Hanif who I have known since University and have worked together at HM Land Registry and the Department of Health. Having this support from someone you know so well and can empathise with your issues makes them almost as important or as close as a spouse at times. About five years ago I went through a really dark period when my wife suffered a miscarriage when the baby was at six months. For months I became unproductive and unfocussed. Mansoor brought his whole family around to my flat where I was living during the week. His wife made me home cooked meals, his kids played with me and he was there to help me through the period. There are times when you don’t want to worry your partner if your contract is about to expire and there doesn’t seem to be much activity in the job market. At such times your friends can reassure you and even suggest solutions. Don’t forget friends are not just around for the good times. I have seen a number of fair weather friends come and go over my many years as a consultant. As you develop as a person you have to learn to spot true friends and nurture them. We all fall out at times and then it is up to us to mend the wounds quickly. Your physical environment Your home and work environments offer many potential sources of environmental stress. Air and noise pollution, dangerous highways, overcrowded parks, resorts and other recreation areas are examples of how your physical environment can add to your levels of stress and make it difficult to relax. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 29
    • Your community Volunteer activities, such as community-orientated campaigns and projects, can provide a direction in which to focus your interests. However, they can also be the source of excessive stress. You need to be careful that your involvement does not become extensive or you may neglect your other obligations. What are the common responses to stress There are three ways individuals commonly respond to stress:  Resistance  Avoidance  Adaptation Resistance Fighting the stress, whether it comes from a co-worker, supervisor or family member is a defensive response and does not solve the problems caused by the situation. Sometimes, the true source of the stress is not immediately obvious and you may respond inappropriately. So if one of your colleagues tells you that you can be difficult to work with and wants a quiet chat to work out strategies to overcome the problem it is no use denying the fact. Perception is reality. So if she feels you can be difficult it is best to listen to the comments. Reflect on the feedback and agree a way forward. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 30
    • If you ignore the feedback your colleague will feel doubly aggrieved the next time you two have some conflict because she tried to build a bridge to solve the problem and you shot down her efforts. This will definitely lead to a build up of stress in the office. Avoidance Avoidance is a common response to stress. When you avoid confronting a stressful situation, you are essentially hoping it will go away if you ignore it. However, avoidance usually results in additional stress in the long run. Adaptation The healthiest way to deal with stress is to identify its underlying cause and then work to eliminate it. If the stress cannot be eliminated, you need to find ways to adapt to it so that it becomes a motivating factor instead of an ongoing source of negativity. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 31
    • How does stress reveal itself Individuals become aware of stress in three ways:  Behavioural changes  Emotional changes  Physical changes Behavioural changes When you are under stress, you may exhibit inappropriate behaviour that is not consistent with your previous behaviour. You may withdraw from or become hostile towards colleagues. Your efficiency and productivity may also decline, which can make your stress levels increase even more. Emotional changes Emotional responses to stress include symptoms such as unwarranted anger, depression, taking offence at minor comments, and becoming fearful. None of these responses are healthy and if they become frequent, they can signal that you are experiencing difficulties coping with a situation. Physical changes A relatively rapid weight gain or loss can indicate that you are under excessive stress. Family and colleagues may notice a change in your usual eating habits or physical appearance. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 32
    • What are internal sources of stress Internal sources of stress are the negative things you say to yourself. It is stressful to have a project or task not work out as expected, but blaming yourself serves no useful purpose. Set reasonable objectives and try your best to reach them. What kinds of support do I need to manage stress successfully Each individual who experiences stress needs a combination of support mechanisms. Most support is gained from other individuals in the following ways:  Social  Professional  Moral Social Friends and family are likely to be a good source of personal and emotional support when you feel stressed. These are the individuals you confide in, who help you work out difficult personal decisions, and to whom you turn to when you need to recover from stressful experiences. Professional Irrespective of whether your professional networks are formal or informal, it is essential that you have individuals that you can talk to during stressful situations. These individuals may be able to empathise with you, answer your questions, or help you minimise the effects of the stress. In a project environment this may be an old colleague from a previous project. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 33
    • Moral Individuals who have to make decisions that conflict with their personal beliefs will experience stress. You need to find a source of support to consult with, such as someone who can help you to reflect on your beliefs and values. What changes should I make in my life to reduce stress Several changes in your life can be beneficial when you are experiencing stress:  Adjust the pace  Change your living arrangements  Define your priorities Adjust the pace When stress comes from a feeling of stagnation, find ways to speed up the pace of your life. Add excitement or variety by increasing the time you spend on activities with others or become more involved in activities you enjoy. When events are moving too fast, you do not feel you have enough time to do your job well or take part in social activities. In these circumstances, you need to simplify the parts of your life that are complicated. Change your living arrangements If your living arrangements are causing you to become stressed, you need to evaluate your options for changing them. Schedule a time to talk to others who may be involved in this decision. Plan changes as far in advance as possible to avoid causing additional anxiety. Early in my career I took on a lot of short term contracts which meant long commutes each day. On a typical day I would be up at 5am drive to work, do a full days work and then drive back home by 8-9pm. I kept this up for a few years and was missing out on social life at home and was seen as a clock watcher at work, under peer pressure to stay longer. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 34
    • As I got older and wiser I insisted on longer term contracts of six months or more duration. I could then afford to lease a flat and cut out the commute. This also allowed my family to visit me and get a break from their routines as well. Define your priorities To reduce the stress caused by conflicting priorities, you need to define what is important to you, both personally and professionally. Establish your priorities in both areas to see if they are compatible. For example, wanting to earn more money and spend more time with your family will be difficult to achieve. Make your priorities flexible and realistic or it will be hard to maintain them. As I have got older I have cut out a lot of extra curricular activities. I don’t train in martial arts seven days a week any more. I don’t go clubbing three nights a week. My priority has become providing for my family so I ensure I get enough rest to do a great job and keep myself in well paid work. I now also make time to be with my kids and not just the weekends. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 35
    • I have seen far too many consultants getting divorced due to our hectic lifestyles and only seeing their kids at the weekends so made a rapid adjustment when I saw my life headed the same way. I don’t earn the big bucks any more by being the martini man (anytime, anywhere anyplace). I would take the contracts no one else would dare to do. I seemed to have followed the BBC reporter Kate Adie to a few war zones. I now take life at a more sedate pace. How can I physically reduce stress There are several popular and effective ways of physically reducing stress:  Exercise  Tension-relaxation.  Sleep Exercise Exercise is one of the best stress-reducers, but it is important to start slowly or the exercise itself will be stressful. Walking is one of the least stressful forms of exercise and can reduce the tension in your neck and shoulders. Check with your doctor before starting a strenuous exercise program. I normally go for a quick workout at 6am every other day to give myself for the demands of the day ahead. Twice a week I try and do some relaxation techniques such as Yoga and T'ai Chi. These are very useful in helping you become calm, lowering your heart rate, and focusing your mind on something other than your stressful situation. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 36
    • Tension-relaxation Tension-relaxation exercises, which can be done while seated at your desk, involve the alternate tensing and releasing of muscles. These exercises are anaerobic and focus on relieving the tenseness and stiffness in muscles rather than raising your heart rate or increasing your lung capacity as a regular exercise programme does. Sleep It is important to get enough sleep so that your body has time to build up its resistance. It is difficult to relax if you have just watched a violent movie or concentrated intensely on a project right before going to bed. You may also want to avoid heavy or spicy foods late at night, as these can make it more difficult to get a sufficient amount of sleep. Listening to quiet music is relaxing and will help you sleep better, as will exercising a few hours before bedtime. How does nutrition affect stress Your diet affects your levels of stress in two ways:  Nutrition can combat stress  Nutrition can aggravate stress White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 37
    • Nutrition can combat stress Your body uses vitamins and minerals faster when you are stressed than when you are not. If the stress is short but intense, you need vitamin C, which can be found in citrus fruits. When the stress is ongoing, remember to eat plenty of nutrients. Some examples of essential nutrients and how you can include them in your diet are: * Protein, which is found in meat, fish and nuts * Calcium, which is found in dairy products such as milk and yoghurt * Potassium, which is found in bananas and other fruits and vegetables The first symptom of dehydration is fatigue, which is why it is important to drink a lot of water. Carbohydrates such as pasta, popcorn and fruit will help stabilise your nerves when under stress, but you should avoid the sugars and starches in chocolate and biscuits. Nutrition can aggravate stress. Some foods aggravate the stress you experience. Stimulants, such as caffeine, can increase your tension and anxiety. Alcohol and other depressants rob your body of vitamins and minerals and can cause dehydration. Fried foods are difficult to digest and can make you sleepy when you need to get work done. What psychological actions reduce stress There are many techniques developed to help you relax your mind and reduce your stress. Some techniques are a combination of physical actions with mental concentration:  Music  Humour  Talking to your family White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 38
    •  Consulting a professional Music Music used alone or in conjunction with other relaxation techniques will help to reduce stress. Quiet music or sounds of nature are usually the most effective. You need to experiment with various recordings to find those that are most relaxing to you. Humour A sense of humour is a big asset in stress management. When you can find the amusing side of a situation, your body chemistry reacts to the laughter and you relax. Obviously, not every stressful situation can be treated with humour, but when appropriate it can be very effective in reducing the effects of stress. Talking to your family It can sometimes be very helpful to talk to your family or loved ones about the stress you are experiencing. It is likely they will have noticed some of the effects of stress on your disposition or behaviour and may be able to help you discover ways to cope with it. Consulting a professional Sometimes it may be beneficial to talk to a physician or psychologist about the physical and emotional toll the stress is having on you. These professionals can evaluate your situation and provide recommendations to help you manage the stress. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 39
    • What personal attitudes affect stress levels There are two personal attitudes that affect stress:  Optimism  Pessimism Optimism Optimistic individuals tend to treat problems decisively. These individuals see problems as opportunities for creative problem-solving and leadership. Try to develop an optimistic attitude so difficult situations do not become overly stressful. Pessimism A pessimistic individual tends to make problems seem worse than they are, which can cause the stress associated with the problem to increase. If you expect negative results, you are very likely to receive them. How can I improve my attitude Your attitude is a reflection of your thoughts and beliefs and can be altered through two actions:  Change your perception  Modify your values Change your perception Changing your thoughts from negative to positive can affect your actions. When you are in a situation where you have little or no control, learn to look at it with different expectations. As your perception changes to one that is less negative, your stress levels will decrease as well. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 40
    • Modify your values Modifying your values does not require you to lose your current values. For example, instead of having a perfectionist attitude and feeling frustrated when something is not perfect modify your attitude so that you strive to achieve high standards. This kind of adjustment will help reduce the amount of stress you experience. What is meant by external sources of stress? An external source of stress generally involves others and you may have no way to control the situation. You can, however, control your reaction to external sources of stress. How can I reduce stress? It is important to reduce as many sources of stress as possible and then manage the stress that is unavoidable. There are three strategies that you can use to reduce stress:  break your automatic responses  anticipate triggers  address problems directly Break your automatic responses You need to become aware of your automatic responses to problems so that you can change those responses that result in negative stress. For example, if your first reaction upon learning of a problem is to get angry and look for who is to blame, respond differently as soon as you are aware that you are reacting in this manner. This is the one I suffer from most. Try counting to 10 or take several deep breaths before responding. These actions will give your anger a chance to subside and may reduce the possibility of an angry outburst. I also try and avoiding writing acidic emails in response to problems as they don’t help. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 41
    • Anticipate triggers Identify the sources that have the potential to trigger a stressful response. Some triggers are external, such as a demanding supervisor or manager. Other stress triggers are internal, such as a reminder of a family argument. Imagine your stress responses being triggered and develop different, more positive responses. With practice, these responses will become more automatic. Address problems directly Teach yourself to confront problems directly. Determine the best and worst outcomes of confronting the person whose behaviour is upsetting you. Anticipate the likelihood of each outcome occurring. Sometimes, role playing the situation with a friend can help you prepare for the confrontation. I do this a lot nowadays. As I get older and wiser I find that I am working with a very mixed bag of abilities in ERP projects. Many years ago we had high quality resource with a good depth of knowledge and experience. In the current climate we make do with cheap and cheerful resource so we do get stresses like a supplier not system testing code before migrating to the live environment or consultants who don’t know it is the end user who should be conducting UAT – User Acceptance testing. Why are communication skills crucial in stress management The ability to communicate clearly in stressful situations will determine the levels of stress you will experience. There are two major forms of communication that are important when managing stress: White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 42
    •  Communicating with yourself  Communicating with others Communicating with yourself Make sure that the messages you tell yourself are positive so you set yourself up to succeed. You must believe in your ability to handle stressful situations positively and be able to accept responsibility for your actions, especially if the outcome is not favourable. You also need to keep an objective outlook and avoid always seeing yourself as the victim in stressful situations. This is a hard pill to swallow. Especially in matrix structured projects when the project manager isn’t in control of his own destiny or that of his team. It is quite easy to start feeling sorry for yourself when a line manager decides to cut your budget, make you release your best team members (because they are the most expensive) and then reduce the timescale you have to complete the project. This is NOT a fictional example. It happens all the time. Communicating with others When you encounter stressful situations that involve others, it is important you remain objective and focus on the situation, rather than on the individual personalities. Remember to stay calm and communicate clearly. When you immediately place the blame for mishaps on others, you are not being honest with those individuals or yourself. Do not take your stress out on others by making accusations or refusing to ask for help and support. If other individuals are not given the opportunity to assist in a difficult situation, their levels of stress will often increase as well. How can I strengthen my workplace relationships to avoid stress All relationships are built on trust. To strengthen and build your workplace relationships, keep the following points in mind: White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 43
    •  Fulfil your responsibilities  Avoid gossiping  Show respect  Look for common goals  Listen  Look for win-win situations Fulfil your responsibilities Your colleagues expect you to do your job and fulfil your responsibilities. Asking for advice or information is accepted and expected, but excessive socialising wastes your and your colleagues' time. Excessive socialising can also increase stress levels if it causes you to get behind in your work. When you do not fulfil your obligations, other people will have to complete your work, which can cause feelings of anger and tension. Avoid gossiping Your relationships with colleagues will be less stressful if you do not participate in circulating unfounded rumours. If you spend time gossiping, you will waste time that could have been spent working on productive tasks. Show respect It is important that you show respect for others. You show respect by being polite, cooperating with others for mutual benefit, and maintaining a team-based attitude. Your productivity and a positive attitude towards management show respect for your employer. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 44
    • Look for common goals When your interests conflict with those of your colleagues, it is important to look for common goals to reduce stress levels. It is likely that there will be areas where you can agree, and you can use that agreement as a basis for continuing the relationship in a positive manner.' Listen Learn to ease stressful situations by making the effort to understand other individuals' viewpoints. Giving a speaker your full attention and listening until they finish speaking will give you more information. When you allow individuals time to make their case, their levels of stress are reduced as well. Look for win-win situations Try to approach situations with a win-win attitude. Relationships are stronger when everyone involved feels they have had their needs met. Stress levels will be reduced for both you and those individuals you work with when all of you benefit from a situation. Cooperation and teamwork are enhanced when the overall objective is to meet everyone's needs. How do good time management skills reduce stress By learning and applying time management techniques, you can complete more tasks in less time and avoid the stress of being behind in your work. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 45
    • What are some effective time management skills There are several things you can do to help you manage your time:  Get organised  Group tasks together  Delegate  Use down time  Schedule productive time  Reduce clutter  Use an agenda Get organised The basic reason for getting organised is to help you find out what tasks need to be addressed and to plan and implement a process for completing them. Determine what activities are time-wasters and eliminate them. Develop a reminder system for yourself to reduce the stress of having to remember every commitment. Group tasks together By grouping similar tasks together, you save time by not having to duplicate actions. If you need to visit another location, determine what other tasks can be accomplished at that location and use your time efficiently. Using a list to keep track of tasks will reduce the stress of repeating actions that could have been combined with other actions. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 46
    • Delegate Look over the tasks you have ahead of you and decide which of them can be handled by someone else. Delegating tasks will lower your stress levels and offer your employees opportunities to take on added responsibility. Use down time Keep some small tasks with you to work on while you are in situations where you must wait. Using your down time can reduce the stress caused by the impatience and frustration you feel when you are delayed. Schedule productive time Your productivity will rise and fall over the course of the day, so plan to tackle difficult tasks when your energy level is at its highest. By scheduling demanding tasks during your most productive time of day, you will be managing your time for maximum efficiency and therefore reducing your stress levels. Reduce clutter A cluttered desk or work area can raise your levels of stress by preventing you from locating items as you need them. Your work area must have sufficient room for you to work comfortably and efficiently. If you have a cluttered schedule, you need to prioritise which appointments to keep and which to delegate or eliminate. Reduce the stress of working in a cluttered space by throwing out junk mail items and unwanted publications as soon as you receive them. Cut out articles of interest and file them, but do not keep the entire publication. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 47
    • Use an agenda If you are responsible for conducting a meeting, you must have an agenda so you can be sure you address all the necessary issues in the allotted time. Knowing you have covered the essential issues will help keep your stress levels down. When you attend meetings, try to have a list of questions or issues prepared ahead of time. Your stress levels are reduced when you minimise the chance of forgetting an important point you want to make. Why is goal setting essential for stress management Goal setting is important in stress management because it provides specific short-term and long-term milestones so you can evaluate your progress. You must carefully determine your goals. If you set them unrealistically high, your stress levels will increase every time you realise you have not reached the amount of achievement you wanted. How should I set goals? There are two ways to set goals in order to minimise stress:  Set incremental goals  Make goals quantifiable Set incremental goals Setting and reaching a succession of incremental goals will reduce your stress levels by boosting your confidence. As each goal builds on the ones you have already reached, the achievement of the larger goal is more likely. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 48
    • Make goals quantifiable You need to be able to measure the amount of progress you make towards reaching a goal. Knowing that you have made a measurable amount of progress will help keep your stress levels manageable. For example, it is easier to measure your progress towards a goal when it is stated as 'Read three reports before leaving work for the day' than to evaluate your progress towards a goal that is not quantified, such as 'Read as many reports as possible'. Why should I evaluate my career goals Career goals may change over time and periodically it is helpful to review whether you are heading in the direction you planned. Without this evaluation, you can experience anxiety, uncertainty and stress about the direction of your career. What can I do to minimise stress over career goals Following these two important steps will help reduce the amount of stress you feel regarding your career goals:  Conduct a self-analysis  Develop a strategy Conduct a self-analysis If your work is causing you a great deal of stress, take a close look at your skills and interests to see if your job or occupation is a good match. You may come to realise your job is not providing the satisfaction you anticipated or need. Many occupations involve short periods of intense stress, combined with long stretches of relative calm. Other jobs have lower levels of stress, but the time span of the stressful conditions is longer. You need to determine if the stress you are experiencing is a temporary condition or an inherent aspect of the job. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 49
    • Develop a strategy If you decide to make changes in your career because of the stress involved, identify the specific stress factors in your current job so you do not duplicate the stressful conditions in another position. Ask for the opinions and advice of individuals in potential new fields and develop a strategy to balance your career goals with other aspects of your life. What are the behavioural warning signs of excessive stress Four changes in an employee's behaviour can indicate that a stress-related problem is developing:  Absenteeism  Changes in performance  Substance abuse  Withdrawal Absenteeism One of the first warning signs of a stress-related problem is that an employee begins missing work frequently. The absences may be related to the employee's health or the health of a family member, particularly a child. As a manager, you should determine, without invading the employee's privacy, the reasons for an employee's absences and discuss with the individual whether they are being caused by stress. Changes in performance A proficient employee who begins to make small errors or becomes forgetful may be feeling the effects of high levels of stress. Often these changes occur slowly and are not recognised as part of a pattern until a more serious error occurs. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 50
    • An employee who procrastinates over decisions and deadlines may be dealing with stress- related issues. Arriving late and leaving early may also be signs that an employee is trying to cope with stress. Let the employee know that you are concerned about these behaviours. Substance abuse An increase in the use of caffeine, alcohol or tobacco may indicate that an employee is not able to cope with stress on the job. Fellow employees may notice the substance use and its effects before the employee does. Discuss with the employee the symptoms of stress you are observing. Be careful not to make accusations, but focus on the affect on the employee's work performance. Withdrawal It is common for stressed employees to distance themselves from colleagues. This behaviour is a way of protecting themselves from further involvement in stressful activities. Withdrawal becomes dangerous to the employee if they refuse help or refuse to acknowledge the effect the stress is having on them. Discreetly ask the employee to discuss the situation with a qualified third party in order to get an impartial opinion. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 51
    • What are the emotional warning signs of excessive stress An employee may demonstrate three common emotional warning signs:  Anger  Depression  Low self-esteem Anger Anger can be either the cause or result of stress and is shown in different ways. When dealing with anger, some employees talk loudly and become aggressive, while others may withdraw into silence. Depression Depression is the result of too much frustration and anxiety. When brought on by excessive stress, depression can be life threatening. Employees suffering from depression often withdraw from their colleagues and demonstrate a lack of energy. Low self-esteem Employees under stress may assume that every difficult situation is entirely their own fault. Even when this is not the case, it can be difficult to prevent these employees from 'beating themselves up'. Excessive stress is most likely to affect the self-esteem of the least experienced employees or those with less confidence in their ability. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 52
    • What are the physical warning signs of excessive stress You may notice the two following physical warning signs in employees who are experiencing excessive stress:  increased illness  diminished energy level Increased illness Individuals under stress frequently catch colds and are more prone to headaches, backaches and tense muscles. These employees have more illness-related absences, sometimes for vague, undefined reasons. Diminished energy level Employees who are normally enthusiastic about their work will become more lethargic and have less interest in their day-to-day tasks when experiencing excessive stress. They will frequently reduce their social and recreational activities by using the excuse that they are too tired. What strategies can I use to help employees deal with change Employee responses to change will vary according to the individual effects the change will have on them. However, employees will always respond either positively or negatively to a change. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 53
    • There are four strategies you can use to help your employees handle stress and remain productive during a change:  Communicate effectively  Offer support and coaching  Help employees solve problems  Treat your employees fairly Communicate effectively During times of change, your employees need frequent and accurate updates on the situation. Your ability to communicate clearly and honestly will keep stress levels manageable and prevent the negative effects rumours can create. Keep the following major points in mind when trying to communicate effectively: * You must give employees both positive and negative feedback. * Demonstrate respect for employees' interests by listening to their concerns regarding a change. * Keep conversations focused on how a change will benefit the organisation. Offer support and coaching Employees experience stress until they become familiar with a new work environment. As a manager, you can minimise this stress by actively supporting them and offering information to ease the transition. Help employees solve problems When you help employees solve change-related problems, you are relieving some of their stress, keeping production up, and creating a climate of cooperation. The organisation, as well as the employee, will experience all of these benefits. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 54
    • Treat your employees fairly Employees will respond positively to changes when they are treated fairly by supervisors and upper management. However, a change perceived as unfair by employees will create hostility and resentment, which will increase stress levels and hinder productivity. How can I make jobs more enjoyable for employees There are three ways to make jobs more enjoyable for employees:  Delegate responsibility  Add variety to jobs  Allow autonomy Delegate responsibility When employees are delegated responsibility for the accomplishment of tasks, they have a greater sense of satisfaction when the tasks are completed. Employees experience higher levels of stress when they feel they are not working up to their full potential. Add variety to jobs Having a variety of tasks to work on reduces the stress created by boredom and stagnation. Try to rotate your employees through several areas of your department or organisation so they become familiar with other functions and have opportunities for career growth. Allow autonomy Employees are most productive when they have an appropriate amount of autonomy. The freedom to make decisions regarding their own tasks, or aspects of the job itself, reduces the stress employee’s experience. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 55
    • How can I help my employees handle conflicts There are three ways you can help your employees handle conflicts:  Act objectively  Let employees vent  Encourage listening Act objectively Objectivity is the ability to look at issues without taking sides or making judgments. This skill must be practiced in order to overcome individual prejudices and opinions. Being objective helps you see the big picture and put the issues in dispute into perspective. An objective approach reduces the chance of the participants becoming emotional and experiencing increased levels of stress. Let employees vent Allow the employees to vent their frustrations and concerns. After you have listened to their concerns, reassure employees that you are committed to finding ways of helping them make adjustments to reduce their stress. Encourage listening Everyone involved in the resolution of a conflict should listen to one another in order to understand the reasoning of each individual. Maintaining a respectful dialogue when resolving conflict is essential in order to reduce the amount of stress the involved employee’s experience. Encouraging employees to listen to one another will also help them identify common goals. Common goals help reduce conflict and lead employees to develop mutually beneficial outcomes. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 56
    • As a manager, how can I help my employees avoid burnout There are several ways you can help your employees avoid burnout:  Encourage open communication  Provide training and support  Set realistic goals  Provide motivation  Develop a reward system  Promote a team attitude Encourage open communication Employees who communicate openly are more likely to tell you when they feel overwhelmed with tasks and responsibilities before the stress affects their productivity. Your employees need to know that it is okay to express negative feelings. Provide training and support All employees need to know that there are means of advancement in their career field and within the organisation. Without these opportunities, employees may feel that their hard work is not worth the effort they put forth. Training and support must be available to all employees so they will have the skills needed to advance within the organisation and take on new challenges. Set realistic goals Most employees will not become discouraged and over-stressed if the goals set for them are realistic and seen as achievable. Work with employees to set goals that are mutually White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 57
    • acceptable. Employees are more likely to strive for goals they have helped set. Provide motivation Optimism is the fuel for motivation. Employees who are motivated believe that their hard work will lead to favourable outcomes. When employees are motivated, their uncertainty and stress levels are reduced. Managers who are able to provide motivating factors for their employees will reduce employee stress. Develop a reward system When your employees know that their efforts will be recognised by meaningful rewards, they are more likely to work hard. Make sure the requirements for receiving rewards are made clear and that all employees are aware of them. Without this awareness, the uncertainty will raise employee stress levels. Promote a team attitude Employees like to feel that they are part of a team where everyone contributes to the accomplishment of the department's goals. Encouraging this attitude will help prevent the stress in employees who are not sure where they fit into the organisation. Managers can show their support by attending meetings and letting team members know that their work is valuable to the organisation. White Paper Mentoring Series: Burned Out © 2009 Page 58