Not only is stress contagious, if you operate a high energy and intense business, second hand stress hangs in the air more thickly than germs during flu season.
"The truth is that stress doesn't come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about your circumstances." - Andrew Bernstein
In fact, there is a name for this phenomenon, second hand stress.
If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed and anxious after spending time with somebody who was stressing out over something, you have experienced second hand stress.
However, that’s just one way way you can catch stress from someone else. In addition to being impacted by their emotional vibe, second hand stress can come through gossip, witnessing office bickering, dealing with gossip, and contending with people who are always in crisis mode.
Sometimes, you even cause yourself to inherit stress from others. That’s a lot to take on when you consider the added stress of business ownership. Don’t let other people’s crises overwhelm you.
Here are five tips for reducing secondhand stress for you and your team members.
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1. Control How And When People Communicate With You
"Email me about that. Call me this afternoon and then we can talk. I will get back to you after lunch".
The more control you can establish over communications, especially incoming communications, the better off you will be.
If the people you work with assume that they can simply come into your office to unload whenever they want, that is exactly what they will do.
When that happens, you will likely be unprepared for it. If people know that you have set times during which you will communicate and established methods of communications, they will learn to respect those boundaries.
2. Stop The Tale of Woe Before it Begins
You already know the signs. One of your team members comes into your office and shuts the door. “We need to talk”, they begin. Thus begins the tale of woe, usually about an unfair or unreasonable coworker, or a difficult client.
Unfortunately, the person in front of you isn’t there for advice or assistance. They simply feel the need to share their irritation, stress, or offense with you. After all, misery does love company. Here’s your quandry.
Listening to an employee’s tale of woe can be absolutely misery inducing, especially when they aren’t interested in solutions. You could take an extremely hardline stance with them.
You could even fire them. Unfortunately, these high maintenance employees are often some of your best workers.
Instead, when you are approaching with a tale of woe, gently tell your employee that you are only willing to listen, if they promise to implement the solution you provide to them. If their goal is simply to vent their spleen, they will learn to move on.
3. Setup Quiet Areas in The Office
Consider setting up some quiet areas in the office. This will benefit you and any of your team members who need to be present in the office, but also need to focus on their work without noise and interruptions.
It doesn’t take much to set this up. If you set up a couple of small tables for one-on-one meetings and collaborations, a white board, and a few small desks and chairs, that is probably enough.
The point is to create an area where the only thing that happens is uninterrupted work.
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4. Take Breaks to Decompress And Encourage Others to do The Same
You cannot be a whip-cracking, strict taskmaster and help yourself or anybody else avoid second hand stress. This is why it is so important to treat taking breaks and decompressing as healthy things, and not as slacking off.
Approach taking breaks as a great way to relieve stress. In fact, you can really facilitate things by scheduling mandated breaks and encouraging stress buster activities throughout the work day.
For example, some employers are placing ping pong or air hockey tables into break rooms as a way to encourage employees to get active and burn off steam.
You might also consider leaving a few adult coloring books around the office. These are great for people who want to spend time alone with a creative outlet. Most importantly, take care of your stress levels by setting a good example and taking breaks yourself.
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5. Be Careful About Rescuing People
You want to help your team members out, but you also do not want them to become needy and lose their ability to solve their own problems.
Even more relevant to the topic at hand, you don’t want to inherit the drama of somebody who continually finds themselves in crisis mode.
Just know that it is perfectly acceptable to tell somebody that they are going to have to solve their own problems.It is also acceptable to tell people that you are going to help them only in very limited ways in specific situations.
This discourages neediness, and it gives you a way to avoid stress and drama.