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Five Easy to Miss Signs of Employee Stress

May 16, 2019

By: Jennifer Lucas

Everyone knows what stress on the job looks like. You can spot it from a mile away. Stressed employees are the ones shouting or locked in a bathroom stall, crying. They’re difficult to work with, and they snap at customers and coworkers. And, they tell you. You can’t walk by without them announcing, “I’m soooo stressed!” sometimes even swooning dramatically.

Stress is obvious, and if you don’t know it’s there, it must not be, right?

Not so much. Not everyone handles problems the same way. Some are less obvious about it than others. Right now, valued employees could be struggling with stress, and you may not even realize it.

Here are five signs of stress that are easy to miss:

1. Radio silence: When was the last time you heard from Linda? Her work is being done. She’s meeting all her key performance indicators. But you haven’t actually spoken to her in days. Introverts deal with stress by becoming more introverted. And in a busy office, that can be easy to overlook.

2. Caving: Does Bill agree to do everything suggested by everyone without complaint? Is he apologizing more and deferring to the others around him? Suddenly being overly accommodating or less willing to take any kind of stand can be a sign of stress. Stress makes some people feel like the stakes are too high for almost any action, making it easy for them to be taken advantage of by coworkers or customers.

3. Routine dependence: Jane always gets everything on her to-do list finished by the end of the day. So why did she freak out when you asked her for one more little thing? Some employees have a stronger need for predictability when they are stressed. As long as work goes along unchanged, you might not notice. But add to their workload, try to speed them up, or change something on them, and they can implode.

4. Disregarding procedures: Is Hal suddenly “forgetting” that you asked him to do things a certain way or “misunderstanding” directions? Some employees are more independent than others, which can be a good thing. However, stress can make them intent on doing things their own way and make them impervious to criticism if they don’t follow instructions.

Yeah, but what’s the big deal? Sure Hal might need a talking to, but if the work is getting done, then why worry?

Often, it isn’t a big deal. Stress comes and goes, and some people take pride in dealing with it on their own. But that only works to a point.
Everyone needs support, guidance and reassurance sometimes. At the very least, they want acknowledgment they are working through it without complaint. If you’re not doing that, you could be hit with another unwelcome indicator of stress…

5. Ghosting: Whether because they couldn’t deal with the stress anymore or they felt underappreciated, some people just leave when they are under too much pressure.

What do you do?

Steps to ease employee stress Get to know your team when they’re at their best. People’s strongest traits can become amplified when they’re stressed: Assertive people can become aggressive. Multitaskers become disorganized. Quiet, tasked-focused folks become hermits, and so forth.  Knowing how they perform in good times will help you notice stress in bad ones.

Have regular check-ins so you can identify if anything is different.

Assume that changes in the company and to the workload are going to cause stress, and prepare for it. Even if you know the team is capable and can handle it, acknowledge that it’s going to be stressful, and recognize people for stepping up to the challenge.

Read More: 3 Steps to Help Manage Change in the Workplace

Consider reaching out to your Omnia Client Advisor for tips and methods for managing to employees’ strengths, minimizing challenges and dealing with stress.

Jennifer Lucas

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