Stress management is extremely important for both physical and mental health. One of the biggest sources of stress is usually work related.
Work stress can be cause by many different things:
Being underpaid. It is hard to manage stress when you do not know how you will afford your next bill.
You are overwhelmed or have unclear duties. Too big a workload can be very stressful; as can inconsistent job descriptions.
Feeling stuck. Maybe there is not much room to advance, or you have no say in your assigned projects. These can make you feel stuck and cause a lot of stress.
Conflict with coworkers. Having bad blood between yourself and your colleagues is a huge stress trigger. If you do not get along with the people you work with, it is next to impossible to keep working with them.
Struggling with perfectionism. Sometimes being a perfectionist only causes undue stress on your part.
All of these are very valid stress triggers.
How can you avoid these and other causes? Below are several helpful ways to practice stress management at work.
The first thing to know is how to recognize the ways your personality and past experiences affect your reactions to stress triggers. Take some time for self reflection, and take note of what situations trigger you the most and how you react to them. Make a journal for a few weeks to record this. Doing this will help you on your way to creating the right stress management plan for you.
Some basic stress management techniques to try at work are:
Take a deep breath.
This will give you a moment to cool off and collect yourself. Performing an action like this rather than knee jerk reacting to a situation is a much better response. Act instead of reacting.
Organize your station and remove distractions.
Having a messy work space can be a big contributor to stress. Organize the clutter and get rid of anything that can cause unnecessary distractions. This will make it much easier to be successful and productive.
Prioritize and stick to a schedule.
Being scattered and not knowing when to do what can be very stressful. Keep a detailed calendar and notes on what you need to do, and when it should be completed. Be sure that you are getting enough rest and food to function at your peak.
See the big picture.
When you focus on one specific thing for too long, it can make it seem much more complicated than it really is. Take a step back and look at it from an objective point of view. This makes it much easier to sort things to do into small steps and set realistic goals for yourself.
If there is anything that will make you more susceptible to stress, it is discomfort. Make sure you have a comfortable work environment. Ergonomic chairs and equipment are great additions to any job and will help you focus better whatever you do. It is important to listen to the signals your body sends you when it comes to stress management. If you are comfortable, you know that something else is causing that ache you are feeling.
Ask for help if you need it.
Needing help does not make you a failure. You can be confident in your abilities, as well as ask for help when you need to. Everyone needs help sometimes, and it is always better to ask for it than to really fail trying to do it all yourself. Sometimes all you need is a pair of fresh eyes to show you something you may be missing.
Demonstrate healthy responses.
Rather than going home and eating a bunch of comfort food, consider doing a quick jog around the block. Exercise is a great release of stress, and is good for your physical health. Another healthy form of stress management is to learn proper communication skills. This will help you express any issues with your fellow coworkers and management.
Stress can create several physical and mental issues ranging from inconvenient to life threatening.
Practicing stress management can help you avoid these risks:
- Stomach pain/nausea/heartburn
- Weight fluctuation
- Heart disease
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping/fatigue
- Metabolic syndrome
- Headaches/brain damage
- High blood pressure
- Lack of focus
- Hair loss
- Tooth grinding
Proper communication in the workplace is extremely important. It can prevent all kinds of misunderstandings, creates a happy work environment, and helps shape team individuals into a cohesive unit.
Many people work long hours with the same people each day. This greatly increases the probability of communication breakdowns, and small misunderstandings creating rifts throughout the whole environment.
Below are steps you can take as a team to foster proper communication with each other at work.
The first step toward effective communication is politeness:
- Greet your coworkers with a smile and a kind word each day. Starting work on a positive note will set the stage for a happy and productive day.
- Remember to say “please” and “thank you” when making requests or receiving help. This will make your teammates feel respected and appreciated.
- Listen when your coworkers speak to you. Be aware that hearing is not the same as really listening. You should be engaged in the conversation when speaking with any colleague.
- Be respectful. Showing respect to your teammates will open the door to proper communication between all of you.
- Use constructive feedback rather than always being critical. People who feel like nothing they do is right, will lose motivation and get discouraged. This leads to frustrated teammates and possibly their quitting—leaving the rest of the team short handed.
- Pay attention to other’s needs. If you see a coworker struggling with something, do not just ignore them. Offer to help. Make sure not to be condescending when doing this.
- Avoid “water cooler gossip.” No one appreciates being talked about behind their back—especially about personal issues. Do not participate in rumors, and keep business told to you in confidence to yourself. A team who does not trust each other, can never function to the best of its ability.
Being polite and respectful to each other paves the way for proper communication through larger issues. It will also facilitate smooth and united internal operations.
Despite best efforts, problems can and will arise… So how can you use effective communication to resolve them? Here are five steps to take and solve workplace issues.
- Calmly communicate the problem. Maybe a coworker missed a deadline, or made a rude comment… Big or small, addressing the problem as soon as possible in a respectful manner is the first step to resolution.
- Present a common goal. Whether it is learning to get along for the benefit of the team, or trying to complete a project together—a common goal needs to be communicated.
- Acknowledge any hurdles that block you from the goal. It is important to be honest with each other about what could keep you from the goal. Whatever the issue is, it is important to get it out in the open.
- Come up with a plan to get around the hurdles. Apologize and give each other clean slates if it is interpersonal; and if it is a professional problem, figure out the most efficient way to solve it. Maybe you need another team member, help from a supervisor, or a more specific thing… No matter what the case may be, working together to jump those hurdles will make the end result well worth it.
- Agree on your responsibilities and a set completion plan. Delegate. Make an agreement on how to complete and resolve the issue. Do not back out of this once you have settled on it. It is important that you are both able to trust each other to carry out this commitment.
In cases of communicating properly in multicultural work environments, knowledge and sensitivity is key. It is easy to misunderstand attitude and language when teammates have differing cultural perspectives. Employees should be coached on proper communication techniques for all situation.
In our open trainings, you will find a variety of training and coaching around the topic of communication. Don’t see your location? Please contact us, and we will create an individual offer to meet your needs!
In modern society, people of differing cultures and backgrounds have the opportunity to work together like never before. Technology allows all people to connect and achieve all kinds of goals. However, even with all these open doors, misunderstandings can sometimes slip through. An intercultural team is capable of great things when properly managed. It is important to be aware of and acknowledge language, culture, and behavioral differences. Words, ideas, and actions can mean different things to other people.
When managing an intercultural team, it is important to have a plan, embrace differences, and learn to use the diversity as a tool of success. How can you do this?
Ways you can become an effective intercultural team manager:
Create ground rules and consistent procedures that will apply to the entire team.
Do this with your entire intercultural team present, allowing them each to communicate and contribute ideas on how to be the best team they can be. After establishing the norms for the team, check in periodically with everyone to be sure everything is working out properly. Make sure everyone is thriving and that they all feel comfortable voicing their opinions and issues if something is not working for them.
Clarify roles and goals with your whole intercultural team.
Be sure everyone understands their own jobs, and who they need to consult for other jobs on the team. Break it down into a comprehensive list for everyone to keep so they will have a hard copy of who does what. Helping your team be able to work together easily creates cohesion and a team identity.
It is okay to “over”communicate.
When managing an intercultural team, you can never have too much communication. Always use clear and straightforward language, avoiding idioms or joking sarcasm. Reiterate your points as needed and check that everyone is on the same page. Be patient and kind with team members who may need extra clarification It is to everyone’s best interest that they feel comfortable asking for this. Which leads to:
Keep all necessary information and resources accessible to all members of your intercultural team.
Making things that are needed easily available to everyone will reduce your team’s chances of misunderstandings and mistakes.
Use team building exercises to encourage your intercultural team to learn how best to work together.
This does not necessarily mean you have to set up a trust fall; you can use almost anything as a team building exercise… As long as you are encouraging them to communicate with each other and work together to resolve small problems. A great way to accomplish this is to have consistent meetings where everyone can see each other and work out any critical issues happening that day/week face to face.
Promote flexibility, understanding, listening skills, and adaptability among your intercultural team members.
When everyone has the mindset of being open and relaxed, communication is much easier. This attitude will help your employees work together without detrimental friction getting in the way.
Treat everyone as equals, but customize certain things for certain needs.
With an intercultural team, some members might not want to be in an “employee of the month” spotlight if they are not used to being praised in the workplace. It is important to pay attention to specific and individual preferences when managing this kind of group.
Learn the different cultures your team comes from so you can be aware of any possible points of contention between teammates. It is okay to just be aware of the possibilities without addressing them. Not everything applies to everyone from a certain background, so use good judgement and be prepared to step in if needed.
“When did this get so hard?” Ray wonders after a long day of meetings with his team in the US and in phone conferences with his international group. By contrast, he remembers his time as an expatriate a few years prior much more fondly. While working abroad in Brazil, he came to pride himself about his skills at “just picking up” insights on how to work well with his colleagues, suppliers, and clients in this Latin American country. This very capacity got him promoted to his current multi-regional role with contacts not only in Brazil but also in China and a number of European countries. Pondering events in recent weeks, he notices that one of the sources of frustration with his team members is that, unlike him, they have not “naturally” picked up cues about the needs and style differences of their partners from other cultures. Instead, they have settled into blaming performance shortfalls on “difficult foreign” team members. This has to stop, for his own sanity, and for the productivity and health of the team, he resolves.
With this decision made, Ray may be fortunate to have a well-informed international HR function at hand to guide them on how to bring relevant learning tools to his team. Or is in the same boat as many managers and may now not know where to turn and what to look for. So, how could he start?
Are online formats the answer to everything?
Webinars and brief online workshops can be an excellent choice to bring the attention of team members to cultural factors impacting professional behaviors – and to the insight that professionalism is viewed and “done” differently around the world. A compact introduction on Global Intelligence or Communication for High-Performance Internationally can provide first set of ideas for action. Country-specific virtual workshops, for example on Working with Germans, Working with US Americans, or Working with Chinese, contain valuable “food for thought” on specific cultures. Once the “cultural logic” driving an unexpected behavior becomes intelligible, confusion and frustration can begin to recede. The flexibility of delivery in time and place as well as their moderate costs add to the attractiveness of online options.
“They just put it on mute”
For any form of workplace learning, a key challenge is its competition for time and attention with on-going work tasks. Disengaging with an online learning experience is particularly easy – for example, by answering emails while “skim-watching” a session on mute. This pattern of passive and selective attention inhibits fuller learning (with heart and mind), and tends to block out new or challenging ideas, thereby significantly reducing the value which could be derived from a session. Yet, even with these potential issues in mind, an online format may be the only practical option at the time.
Full engagement and “hot” issues
For fully engaging learners, in-person formats can deliver the bigger punch: A customized session can win the audience by focusing closely on the specific questions and “burning” challenges of the learners. Interactive and experiential learning design actively involves learners into a multi-dimensional learning process of heart-mind-and hand (action). Group interaction furthers social learning and peers contribute expanded perspectives. Moreover, a skilled facilitator provides a setting in which some of the more emotionally challenging aspects of human communication can be worked through safely. This is especially important when misunderstandings have already left residues of hurt, anger, distrust or alienation. It is also very relevant when specific solutions need to be “workshopped”.
Ray now gets to review his team situation, weighing performance issues, as well as cost-benefit trade-offs between the different format options. He concludes that he will learn about learning, enrolling himself and select team members into one online offering and a one-day in-person session. With this experience in hand, he feels, that he can make further decisions that will benefit his team.
Check out our open enrollment portfolio of webinars, virtual workshops and one-day trainings for a quick jump-start into learning! Of course, we are always happy to talk to you about customized and in-person options, and when these may be the smart choice.
Mary, a highly accomplished engineer and self-made business owner in the US, has received yet another disrespectful email from her young engineers in Poland. She angrily thinks to herself, “I am the owner of this business and they are just driving me mad. Why do they challenge everything?” Mary has confidence that comes from her professional journey as an immigrant to the US with Central American roots. She knows how to assert herself, build credibility, and influence people in a new context. Despite her usual cool, she is baffled by these engineers. Mary’s challenge is unique for her but not unusual in global businesses. People from different cultures work and communicate differently. These differences can create misunderstandings, frustration, friction, lowering of morale, and loss of productivity. What can prepare engineers, managers, or business leaders for the cultural surprises inherent in international projects? What can they do to be ready for the challenges of global leadership?
The Challenges of International Leadership
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, leaders can systematically enhance their capacity to meet the challenges of international leadership. Most leaders have risen to their positions through expertise in a certain field (engineering, finance, sales, etc.), a strong work ethic, and assertiveness. These same traits, however, are often not sufficient, and sometimes they are even counterproductive, to leading across multiple countries which have different cultures, business behaviors, and workplace norms.
Step One: UnderstandingThe first step is to understand that what got you “here” in the US, will not get you “there” in your international career. This requires a willingness to explore success factors in global leadership that differ from successful traits that are typical for the US.
Step Two: Assessment
An excellent starting point to explore success factors in global leadership is to take an individual assessment on global management competencies. Not only will the results of such an assessment highlight strengths and blind spots, but it also will provide a tangible framework with which to describe what global leadership “is” and how to “do” more of it, and do it well. This could be a good start for Mary too.
Step Three: A Systematic, Longer-Term Approach
Of course, it is very good practice for organizations to take a systematic, longer-term approach to developing global leaders. An integrated approach connecting talent spotting, relevant global leadership development programs, and full alignment of global competency development with performance evaluation and promotion systems is ideal. And getting to this level of organizational practice does not happen overnight.
What the Research Has Shown
Research* has shown time and again that global leaders do not become accomplished in their roles just by “taking a class.” Training can play a useful role – but is frequently inefficient by itself (estimates suggest that only 10% of training expenditure transfer to performance on the job).** For higher performance, developing leaders need to be exposed to a range of feedback and support sources, increasingly more demanding real-life challenges, and opportunities to reflect and “make sense” of their experiences.
Solving Mary’s Dilemma Long Term
Meanwhile, for Mary, managing her team of engineers continues to be messy. Like Mary, many leaders find themselves confronted with challenges which need to be addressed “now” and “just-in-time” options are needed. There are two sides to this situation: Mary, in her role as a global leader, can benefit greatly from global executive coaching. This source of skilled individual support can lead to insights on how the Polish behavior is influenced by both cultural and generational factors in Poland. Mary can also gain a fuller insight into the role her own cultural and communication styles play in the overall dynamics. This opens doors to using a broader, more adaptive set of influencing strategies. In her coaching process, she will likely also discover that her young team in Poland actually needs support in strengthening their culture-crossing team-communication skills. This is the second side of the situation. Support can be provided through a tailored intercultural training on US-Polish interactions in Poland. Both sides can begin to move forward with a higher level of global competence.
Mary is now in a very good position to truly align the team by stepping back to re-set ground rules for the team and its members working with her so that they can fully perform as the smart engineering power-pack that they are.
Looking for global leadership development for your team? Contact us to discuss your goals.
*Osland, Bird, Oddu et.al. (2012), Global Leadership: Research, Practice and Development, 2nd ed., New York, NY: Routledge ** e.g. Grossman and Salas (2011), The transfer of training: what really matters, in: International Journal of Training and Development, vol. 15 (2), pp. 103-120
Local consulting firm, ti communication (tic) provided pro-bono Organizational Development (OD) consulting services to the Farmers Market Fund (FMF), a Portland-area non-profit organization through the OD Network Community Consulting Project (CCP). The unlikely partnership between an international consulting firm and a local farmer’s market resulted in a re-energizing of the board of directors and the identification of new sources of funding.
For a number of years, FMF has been highly impactful in expanding access to local, farm-fresh food to economically disadvantaged populations in rural and urban Oregon with the Double Up Food Bucks program. Qualitative and quantitative data provide strong evidence that families, regional farmers, and farmers markets have all benefited from their efforts.
After losing a major grant due to federal policy changes, the leadership team at the Farmers Market Fund faced charting a course for an altered future for the organization. Going forward, FMF looked for ways to continue with this kind of program but did not want to be highly dependent on one big grant again. Questions were also asked about how to grow resiliently as opportunities arise to do so.
FMF leaders reached out for organization development resources through the OD network community consulting project (CCP) for guidance. The CEO of tic USA, Sabine Amend joined the CCP consulting team to assist with developing future directions and strategy for the Farmers Market Fund.
tic USA CEO, Sabine Amend, leads an organization that is international in its scope of clients and global in its mindset. Doesn’t it make more sense to stay focused on the big picture realm then? Amend does not see it that way. She points out, “Real quality of life happens locally with the fabric of our daily experiences within our close-range communities. And healthy communities are forged through bonds of shared responsibility, care, and communication. That does not change just because I spent last night in a video conference with clients on two other continents.” Rather than leading to detachment, her broad global experiences have convinced her that engaged local communities are vitally important and contribute mental health benefits, social trust, and democratic process skills.
In the FMF project, after clarifying the needs of the client further, ti communication conducted detailed interviews and surveys with key stakeholders of the organization, including its board members and important donors. This provided the foundation for the design and facilitation of a one-day, off-site board-strategy workshop. During this workshop, board members explored the future through a combination of scenarios, role-plays, and skills-practices. Maybe most importantly, they engaged in the type of in-depth conversations which rarely occur during the agenda-packed board meetings. After delineating actions, board members left the session hopeful and energized. The consultant team followed up with a report and recommendations as well as with a closing session at a board meeting.
Since then, FMF staff and board members have taken several steps to implement the ideas generated in the board workshop; they are taking action based on the suggestions in the consultants’ report. FMF is also well on its way towards accessing significant new sources of funding. Congratulations to the board and staff of FMF! And thank you for your on-going work in our communities.
About ti communication, USA
Organization development services for businesses and non-profit organizations, locally and internationally, are part of the tic portfolio. Contact us if you think we can be of service. If you are a Portland-area non-profit organization with limited resources, consider becoming an ODN CCP client. Detailed information is listed at www.odnoregon.org/community-consulting-project . If you feel inspired by the work of the Farmers Market Fund, please consider making a donation.