Profiles International - Victoria    eNewsletter   February 2010 

All Four Letter Words are Not Bad - What's a quick way to reduce stress?
If you associate the question with the headline above it, you may think we're advising you to let loose with a string of angry four-letter words not suitable for printing here. Because—let's face it—sometimes stress induces anger, including the use of bad words in a raised voice.

But that's not the kind of four-letter word we have in mind. We're thinking of something that leaders can do in public and still remain professional. In fact, those who use this stress-reducer will find that it works immediately and can be used multiple times to great effect. Although it may become habit-forming, the CEO likely will not mind. In fact, successful CEOs use this four-letter word themselves, every day. What is it?


Before you decide that the solution is too simple to reduce stress, you need to look at the causes. In the Profiles report,"The Leader's Guide to Managing Workplace Stress," we list good management practices that help reduce stress:

  • Learning about what causes distress in the workplace, striving to improve the working environment, and minimizing stressors within your control.
  • Finding out whether distress could be a problem for individuals in your work group by implementing a systematic assessment.
  • Working to eliminate or manage internal issues that are affecting staff.
  • Understanding one’s own physiological response to stressors and working to adopt a proactive stance.
Of the actions listed above, which one does NOT involve talking? Right. All four emphasize communication, or its shorter but just as powerful friend, talking. Although some people will argue that there is too much talking on the job already, we believe that talking of all kinds must occur throughout the workday for employees to understand their job and perform it well.

But talking has to have a purpose to be effective, so we need to use what works and eliminate what does not. Here are some ideas to that end:

Time it right. Plan the best time to meet. Just as you don't text-message while driving to work on a busy freeway, you should not initiate an important discussion with a team leader an hour before her deadline on an important project; that only causes more stress. Schedule regular times to talk to your team leaders, and be flexible enough to reschedule if one of the parties cannot meet at that time. 

. Although that's not a four-letter word, it's implied as part of talking to others. If you ask a manager what's going on and allow other people to interrupt while he is telling you, your attention is diverted and divided. He will lose his train of thought or think that you don't care…and he may be correct. So program your phone not to ring, ask someone else to answer it, turn your cell phone off, or meet in a room without phones. Make sure others know not to interrupt during important meetings. If the meeting involves several people at once, set ground rules that including not interrupting the person who has the floor.

Ask. Another short word with power, this involves probing to make sure you understand the issues. This is imperative if the discussion is complicated or involves several facets. Even addressing simple issues, asking questions and restating any problem also lets the talker know that you were listening.

Dive deep. Talking with a purpose needs to go beyond "How are you today?" or "Did you watch the game last night?" Those are greetings or feel-good questions. To learn something of importance, you must ask open-ended questions: "What is left to be completed on your project?" or, "What steps have you taken to ensure that your new team member is fitting in with the rest of your group?"

Open your door. Ensure that everyone who works with you knows he or she can come to you with stressful issues. Letting people know this can be as simple as keeping your door open. Also, you can structure regular meetings with everyone on your work team and have an agenda for each meeting.

Don't blab. Make sure that confidential communications remain so unless you have an ethical or legal reason to report them. Even then, be circumspect. Workers must have someone they can go to in confidence to discuss sensitive issues. Involve your human resources department or other departments as necessary.

Starting out with that simple four-letter word can help leaders reduce workplace stress to the size of a small molehill. Remember that stress is merely a six-letter word. Only neglect allows it to grow.                                                          FROM JIM SIRBASKU’S DESK
What You Can Do About Stress
"If you don't get everything you want, think of the things you don't get that you don't want".

That quote by Oscar Wilde is a negative way to look at the positive, but the point remains good: We cannot control everything that happens, but we can control our response to events swirling around us.

As Profiles International demonstrates with its research on stress in the workplace, we give stress too much power when we allow problems we experience on the job to control our lives. This causes bad health, overblown drama in the office, and relationship problems at home. Making jokes about not having a "life" outside of work is fine if it is just a joke—but not if we mean it. Healthy people know they must balance work with the rest of their lives to maintain their good health.

People who are frazzled by what they perceive as unrelenting stress can take basic steps to get back the power, manage their lives and keep work issues in perspective:

Establish a lifeline. Everyone needs a trustworthy ear—someone to talk to, preferably before reaching the boil-over point. Develop colleagues, whether in the office or away from work, to help you deal calmly and logically with job frustrations. Talking to others about work problems will help you realize that you are not alone. If something is affecting you, then it is affecting others too.

Prioritize. When job duties threaten to swamp you, step back. Decide what needs to happen in the next hour, or the next day. Take everything a step at a time. Setting priorities helps you organize your workday. Remember when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.

Learn to say no. Although you cannot reject a manager's assignment, you can keep the lines of communication open so he knows what else you are working on. Do your part to strengthen the relationship. Ask for regular feedback on your performance; seek your manager's help in setting priorities. If your workload has increased and you need help, say so. Remember, communication takes two people and managers cannot read minds.

Leave work on time. It's normal to work past quitting time to finish a project, but doing so on a regular basis creates problems at work and at home. Leaving on time demonstrates to others that you have a life outside work. Set an example by working when you are at work and enjoying other pursuits when you are not.

Do it regularly at a time you set aside just for that. Start with two or three days and work up to daily if possible. Think of stretching, walking, yoga, pilates, swimming, running or biking—anything that raises your heart rate and clears your mind. People who exercise say it gives them more focus.

Think practically. Change is inevitable, even in slower moving organizations that appear to stay the same. Acknowledge that nothing stays the same and that changes at work will affect you in some way. Then deal with them as they arise. Remember, some changes can be good ones.

When you think that you have little control over your life, remember that you are the only person who controls your attitude. A deep breath and a thoughtful approach to what you are facing will sustain you much longer than will tears, yelling and hand wringing.
To Produce Your Best, Alleviate Stress                                     by Megan Bullard
Those suffering from stress generally don’t complain until their mental or physical health begins to suffer.

The new year is here, and 2010 already feels like it is in full swing. January is the month of resolutions and commitments. Individual resolutions range from losing weight to quitting smoking, but what kinds of resolutions do businesses make?

Businesses are not immune to the need to create resolutions that will improve their companies and employees. A myriad of resolutions lie in wait to be discovered by businesses, yet one seems to make more sense than the rest—stress. The majority of today’s employees are teeming with work-related stress, but those suffering from it generally don’t complain until their mental or physical health begins to suffer.

Stress is linked to the five leading causes of death—heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. Despite the harsh effects of stress, most people dismiss work-related stress as a necessary evil. But it doesn’t have to be. Businesses have the opportunity to educate, assess and resolve stress-related issues in order to create a more productive environment.

A happy employee will produce twice as much as a stressed employee.
This year is full of promise. A happy employee will produce twice as much as a stressed employee. Businesses should take the opportunity to maximize their potential for success by alleviating their employees’ work-related stress. Modern business should not concern itself primarily with how much is produced, but how it can improve production. Reducing work-related stress will improve the health and wellness of employees, as well as the way business is conducted.

Our newest executive briefing "The Leaders Guide to Managing Workplace Stress" is full of useful facts and information geared towards educating managers about the threats and solutions for a stressful workplace. Contact us now for a copy.


What's a quick way to reduce stress?

What You Can Do About Stress

To Produce Your Best, Alleviate Stress



Partner Training:
Training scheduled for 23rd February. 

There is no seminar scheduled for February.




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