MYTH: I must appear stressed in order to demonstrate that I am critical for the company.
REALTY: Stress is not the same as being busy. Taking work to the level of stress will do a lot of harm.
It has become fashionable for people to say that their job is very stressful. People misuse the word ‘stress’ when all that they are is, ‘busy’. ‘Stress’ means ‘physical, mental or emotional tension’, and that’s not at all what ‘busy means (though it is possible that being busy over a long period might lead to stress). So, you have a situation where a lot of employees think that in order for the management to believe that they are critical to the company’s fortunes, they must appear busy or stressed. They then ensure that their work schedule is always packed. They might even end up doing menial or mundane work just to have a packed schedule.
They should realize that matters, like, resolution of issues, long-term planning or setting a strategic direction, require time, and cannot be done within such a packed schedule, There is no issue if a person enjoys having a hack-to-back schedule, but if he complains about being stressed, then there’s something wrong with the way he is approaching the whole thing.
Many employees nurse the wrong perception that those who work for long hours get rewarded. But that sort of a thing happens only in a few cases, such as, when a person takes up additional responsibility so as to achieve more in a given time frame.
It is wrong to think that one needs to take work to a stressful level in order to be an indispensable employee of the company. That’s not to say that no work involves stress one will be under stress while working on a mission-critical work, but, here again, it’s only for a limited period. Stress does lead to health issues, finally even .rendering a person unfit for work. It is important to be true to oneself and discuss things with the manager so as to establish a common ground on expectations and results. An employee has to understand that, ultimately, his indispensability, depends on the kind of results he produces.
WHAT CAN YOU DO AS THE EMPLOYEE? If you are performing well and showing good results, then you should not worry unnecessarily about the kind of impression that you are making on your manager. Do not play with your health. When you sign up for a work that is challenging, you should carry it out enthusiastically, and not be under a strain till it is over. A good understanding of the manager’s expectations will also be of help. Having a good relationship with your colleagues and your manager will go a long way towards reducing the stress since you’ll get support whenever you require it.
WHAT CAN YOU DO AS THE MANAGER? You need to be careful when your subordinates complain about stress. It could be a symptom of some other problem. It may have to do with any of these factors: lack of clarity in terms of goals; constantly changing requirements; a lack of ability on the part of the employee to complete the work. You should look beyond the obvious and find out if there are other concerns that need to be addressed. You should be in constant touch with your team members to assure them that you know them well. This will help them not to take the work to a stressful level just to impress you.