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The American Institute of Stress reports that 40% of workers believe their jobs are “very or extremely stressful.” During the pandemic, this perception has intensified; an American Psychological Association survey reports that the economy is a “significant” source of stress for seven in ten adults. Yet not everyone feels the effects of stress the same way. If you’re a manager who handles stress with ease, while your boss and team become ever more tightly wound, you may give the impression that you don’t care about the work or your colleagues. Being cool under stress is an asset, but your colleagues may read your unruffled nature as “nonchalance” or indifference. This perception could hurt your career trajectory. Here are three ways to change it:
Address the Situation
Public speaking is a stressor for many — but not all — people. If you don’t sweat presentations, you may view a virtual town hall, for example, as an easy way to highlight your department’s story. But if you aren’t exhibiting outward signs of stress, your manager could assume you aren’t taking the presentation preparation seriously.
If this describes you, over-communicate with your boss: tell him or her that you know it’s important, and that you’re on the case. Never assume your manager knows what you’re thinking. When others around you feel stress, address the situation head-on. For example: “I know budget planning time is crucial to the success of our department. Because our Executive Leadership Team session will be difficult, I am meeting daily with the planning group so that our numbers are correct and we are prepared for tough questions.”
Teach Your Process
Many leaders have coping mechanisms that help them handle stress. These include overpreparing, changing their mindset, repeating positive affirmations, biting off small chunks of big tasks, and taking imperfect action. Whatever methods you employ, one aspect of your job as a manager is to help your team alleviate stress, so it’s important to share your process. Remember that your teammates might mistake your level-headedness for aloofness. If you share your stress-alleviation techniques, your team and manager will see that you care for the wellbeing of your peers.
For one leader I coached, meeting with the Chief Revenue Officer was a stress trigger. His solution was to overprepare; this helped meetings run smoothly. My client then coached his peers to duplicate his approach: to finish their work at least a week in advance, share the data with a peer to test for errors, and practice the conversation at least three times before the meeting. While that may seem like a lot of extra work, it improved their meetings.
Some leaders mitigate stress by simply doing something. Acting on one small piece of the puzzle can produce feelings of accomplishment. One manager shared with me that he felt a new business unit was being set up for failure because not enough people were assigned to it. The manager understood that he had to push forward and succeed without additional resources. He coached the team in place to stay calm under pressure by taking steady action on whatever needed doing. While this approach didn’t turn the business unit around, the team was motivated to handle what they could until they gained more members.
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Here is a direct link to the complete article.
Anne Sugar is an executive coach and speaker who works with senior leaders in technology, marketing, and pharmaceutical companies. She is an executive coach for the Harvard Business School Executive Program and has guest lectured at MIT. You can reach her at annesugar.com.