Now, more than ever, it’s important for employees to know how to manage stress and fear at work. Here’s how leaders can spot it and ease the emotional toll.

Tight
deadlines, massive workloads, micromanagement and uncertainty – all realities
that make your employees want to cringe. Why? Because they all lead to stress.
And if excessive enough, they could even cause your employees to become fearful
about their jobs and their future with your company.

Those emotions
can be a slow poison to any business, not only affecting employee health but
also their levels of
production
.

That’s why,
as leaders, it’s imperative that you learn how to manage stress and fear at
work.

But, in order to do so, you’ll need to understand workplace stressors and recognize fear within your people – from the hardest-working employees to your most reserved.

Understanding stress and fear 

At work, stress can affect any person at any level. Though some perform well under pressure, others could develop more serious issues like anxiety, depression, fatigue and burnout.

When
employees are extremely stressed at work, that can lead to fear. Though fear
may be a short-term emotion, it can also be paralyzing.  

For
instance, as a hard deadline creeps up, someone under duress may begin to panic.
They scramble to finish and are succumbed to fear, asking themselves, “What if
this isn’t good enough? Will I be reprimanded? Should I just quit now?” or
worse, “Will I be fired?”

In
a state of fear, people compromise their ability to process thoughts and situations
rationally. For some, their natural reaction is either fight or flight. Fight
could be confronting their boss and demanding something. Or flight, keeping
their head down and avoiding their boss all together.

These workplace adversaries can leave your employees resentful, intimidated or insecure. If left unchecked, that could cause them to become disengaged or even quit.

What contributes to workplace stress and fear?

People become fearful when they don’t feel safe. And when it
comes to the workplace, that could be as literal as physical safety or lack of
job security. Coupled with worldly worries, like a pandemic or an economic
downturn, stress and fear at work can be at an all-time high.  

Here
are some other factors that may impact employee emotions:

  • Lack of input into business decisions
  • Lack of support from managers or colleagues
  • Lack of clarity or uncertainty
  • No recognitions or rewards for contributions
  • Lack of continuity
  • Personnel conflicts
  • Working late or working overtime
  • Discrimination

Recognizing stressed and fearful employees

Often,
the hardest-working people prioritize their work over their health. Just
because someone isn’t crying out for help, that doesn’t necessarily mean they
couldn’t use some. 

Here are signs someone is struggling to handle their stress and fear at work:

  • Fatigue
  • Frequent health issues
  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Negative attitude
  • Frustration
  • Indecisiveness or loss of confidence
  • Forgetfulness
  • Constant worry

What tactics help employees overcome fear and stress?

Handling stress and fear in a healthy way is no easy task.
Let alone helping others around you. Fortunately, if you can first recognize it
in your people, you’ll be able to help to reduce it before it impacts your
entire team.

Here are four ways you can help employees
engage
and overcome stress and fear:

1. Demonstrate emotional intelligence and empathy

Let your employees know you understand
how they feel
. Remind them that you’re there for them and work to motivate
them.

The mind is a powerful thing, if they work to eliminate negative
self-talk it can decrease their stress. It’s easy to see the glass is half
empty rather than half full. Encourage them to think positive.

2. Be honest and vulnerable

Let them know how you feel, too. Be transparent. Tell them
if you’re also scared or worried. Share some of your own stressors. This builds
trust with employees faster than anything.

3. Know when to pivot

It’s never too late to adjust your leadership style to
better support your employees. Try new things with your team and see what works.

For example, consider if meetings are more effective in the
early morning or late in the afternoon. Ask employees how they feel and adjust
according to their needs and wants.

4. Communicate and offer support

As a leader, it’s important to be the support system your
people need. Communicate with them often. Hear them out. Share your own tips
for reducing stress and fear.

Here are some ideas to suggest:

  • Encourage more breaks – Don’t work non-stop for
    8 hours
  • Establish a “groove” – Learn what hours you work
    best, so you can be more effective and more productive
  • Don’t play the “what if” game – Don’t worry
    about things that haven’t happened or things you have no control over
  • Count to 10 first – This allows your brain time
    to fully process the situation
  • Be aware of your hot buttons – Know your
    triggers, so you can control your responses

What about employees who aren’t vocal?

Everyone
has their own behaviors and react to stress and fear differently. That’s why,
as a leader you should make every effort to build communication with your team,
even those that are seclusive.

Try
asking them directly
if they’re feeling OK and let them know they can be honest with you. If
that person is still uncomfortable to share their concerns with you, here are a
few other things to try:

  • Show that you care – Let them know that you care
    about them as a person
  • Acknowledge or recognize their work – Let them
    know you’re aware they’ve taken on lots of work and show your appreciation
  • Reduce their workload – Move people or tasks
    around to lighten their load
  • Ask them indirectly – Check with a close
    colleague or friend if everything is OK

Ridding fear and stress from your work
environment

As
you work to disarm stress and fear in your workplace, it’s important to distinguish
where it already exists. Employees under extreme pressure may not wave a white
flag. They may not under perform. And they may not react until they’re at
they’re brink.

Before
they’re completely trapped in a morass of fear, demonstrate empathy, offer
support, make changes and be transparent.

Though
stress can never be entirely eliminated from any workplace (as much as you
would like it to be), you can aim to create a workplace where fear is extinct.

To learn more about dealing with different kinds of
employees and handling conflicts that may arise, download our free e-book: A
practical guide to managing difficult employees
.

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