PART II: Impact of Stress on Your Bottom Line
Wednesday, November 2, 2011 –
Stress. We all feel it. In today’s over-scheduled workday, stress sneaks up on us and then delivers a one two punch to our productivity and job performance.
In this two-part webinar series, Dr. Daniel Crosby, President of IncBlot, will help you better understand how stress impacts job performance and what you can do about it.
- We will discuss ways to manage stress in the workplace
- We will define proven strategies to help your workforce tame stress that detracts from their performance while leveraging stress that spurs growth.
- We will uncover some common behaviors people use to deal with stress and discuss which ones really work.
These webinars will help define stress and build stress management plans that best fits your business culture so you can reduce the negative impact of stress in your company.
Click here to Learn more about PART I: The Impact of Worker Stress
Monster would like to thank Dr. Crosby for presenting this two-part webinar series on the Impact of Worker Stress.
Daniel Crosby, Ph.D.
President of IncBlot
Daniel Crosby grew up in Huntsville, Alabama. He earned a B.S. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Brigham Young University. Returning to the Southeast, he served as a consultant to a number of organizations at Emory University. Daniel also taught graduate and undergraduate honors level courses on topics including theories of personality, personal development, media portrayals of psychological constructs, and counseling skills. Additionally, Daniel has consulted on career selection, stress management, time management, and interpersonal effectiveness. In both private practice and university settings, Daniel conducted assessments and used best practices to match professionals with appropriate employment. He has published and presented papers in the areas of personality theory, meaning-based approaches to career and personal counseling, empirically supported treatment plans, and multicultural considerations in counseling.
Daniel was awarded the Viktor Frankl Institute Scholarship, presented by the Frankl family and the City of Vienna, Austria, for his work involving the application of Dr. Frankl’s theories to diverse populations.
Webinar Transcript: Part Two: Impact of Worker Stress on Your Bottom Line
Good day everyone. I'm Randi Alterman, a marketing director here at Monster, and I'd like to thank you for joining us today for this exclusive webinar, hosted by Monster Intelligence. Today's webinar is titled, Part Two: Impact of Stress on Your Bottom Line. In this Monster Intelligence webinar, we're joined by Dr. Daniel Crosby, president of IncBlot. Today, we're discussing part two of our series, on how stress impacts your bottom line. Dr. Crosby will help you better understand what you can do about stress in the office place. If you missed part one, you can go to hiring.monster.com and go to HR Events, and you'll see that we've archived the event into a recording, and you can hear the event there. We are recording today's event as well.
Before we get started, I do have just a few housekeeping items to mention. The presentation and a copy of today's recording will be posted on hiring.monster.com within two to three days. Click on the Resources tab, and go to HR Events. All participants will receive an email with a direct link to today's material.
Monster Intelligence provides insight to help HR professionals improve their recruiting success, accelerate worker performance, and retain top talent. We analyze and correct data from over four million unique job searches that are performed each and every day on Monster.com. We invite you to visit hiring.monster.com and read some of our other in-depth reports and analyses, all located under the Resources tab.
There will be time after today's presentation for some questions, and our meeting manager will help facilitate that Q&A. Please feel free to type your questions into the available space during the event, and we will try to include them as well. Additionally, if you are getting your audio through the telephone, you will be placed on mute until the Q&A session begins.
I'd like to introduce today's speaker. I'd like to welcome back Dr. Daniel Crosby. Dr. Crosby grew up in Huntsville, Alabama and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, and his PhD in Counseling Psychology from Brigham Young University. Returning to the southeast, he serves as a consultant to a number of organizations at Emory University. Dr. Crosby also taught graduate and undergraduate honor-level courses on topics including theories of personality, personal development, media portrayal of psychological constructs, and counseling skills. Additionally, Dr. Crosby has consulted on career selection, stress management – today's topic – time management, and interpersonal effectiveness in both private practice and university settings. Dr. Crosby has conducted assessments and used best practices to match professionals with appropriate employment. He has published and presented papers in the areas of personal theory, need-based approaches to career and personal counseling, and empirically supported treatment plans, and multicultural considerations in counseling. Dr. Crosby, I'd like to turn the webinar over to you.
Thank you so much Randi. Thanks to Randi and Lisa and everyone at Monster, and good afternoon to everyone. It's a sunny, beautiful day in Huntsville, Alabama. I'm looking forward to speaking with you all today about part two of our stress presentation. I think Randi has given a fantastic intro there, so I won't speak much more about myself. It's a great intro. If you'd like to know more about my organization, I'd encourage you to go to IncBlot.org. You'll see the link there. As we discussed last time, the head shot is a little severe. I think I need a new one that lightens it up a little bit and doesn't make me look so stressed.
Just to touch on a few things briefly that we touched on in our first presentation, to catch up anyone who missed the first presentation. I don't think you'll be at any bit of a loss. We talked last time about stress being any move away from equilibrium. Each one of us has a set point or sort of a medium point or an equilibrium state, where we like to be in terms of our personal stress, in terms of what is comfortable for us. Stress is anything, real or perceived, that moves us away from that comfortable middle ground. So that could be any variety of things. But anything that moves us away from that middle ground is something that we'd consider a stressor.
A lot of the questions that were asked last time were really fantastic and almost to a person, all of the questions last time dealt with making a case for stress as something that impacts the bottom line. "How do I, as an HR professional or a recruiter, how do I bring this important issue to the CEO or to an executive team, and help get them to invest some resources or some time, or give this some attention?" And so one of the things that I wanted to revisit today and really try and drive home is that stress is in fact a very big deal in terms of hard, measurable construct. It matters for making money, it matters for retaining employees and the better a job you can do at making this case to the decision makers within your organization, I think the more success you'll have in getting valuable time and resources allotted to fighting stress.
Just to touch on a few of those, a recent study found half of the employees were looking for new work that would give them a better quality of life and less stress. So if you think about the value of your talent, the cost to hire new talent and seek out those new folks, it's a pretty heady number to say that on average half of the people in your workplace are looking for a job that's going to provide them with a little less stress. Stress accounts for three-quarters of all visits to a general practitioner. Now, I just want to remind you, I'm an organizational psychologist. This isn't three quarters of all visits to a psychologist, this is three quarters of all visits through a medical doctor are either caused by or exacerbated by stress.
I want to talk about a couple of other things that we know are very important in terms of job performance. One of those things is intelligence. Study after study has shown the importance of intelligence on job performance. Many studies – this is somewhat controversial – but many studies find that it's the single best predictor of job performance. Stress quite literally takes up room in our brains that causes us to be less intelligent. When people are put under stressful conditions, they do on average 13percent worse than they do in a no-stress condition. So if your workplace is one where there is a great deal of stress, you can count on the fact that your employees won't be performing at their peak and that in doing so that they won't be performing their jobs to their fullest abilities.
Another thing that's incredibly important and gets a lot of coverage these days is emotional intelligence. I think we could all speak to incidents where either we or a coworker under stress were not ourselves, and snapped, and we're less polite, or less cordial, or less emotionally intelligent than we might have otherwise been. So whether we're talking about emotional intelligence or just plain out cognitive intelligence, stress is a detriment to both of those things.
Here's a stat in this case – a statistic. A Swedish study found that people who work for high-stress bosses were more likely to die of heart-attack. And then a couple more at the bottom that will, I think, catch the eye of even the most financially minded of CFOs and financial executives, is that the US government estimates that stress-related illness accounts for a 10percent loss in GDP, which is a $1.47 trillion problem. A recent Harvard study found that depression is soon to become the number one cause of missed work. And stress and depression are, of course, cousins there and very, very closely related.
The question last time quickly became: what do we do about this? We spent most of the last webinar making the business case, as I've just done, for stress as a business consideration. I think all too often it's considered a soft thing, a soft skill, and something that people just need to get over. But as we've just covered, there is a very real business case to this. So what we are going to spend our time talking about today is the so-what of this. What do we do about this? We'll go over a number of practical, easily implementable solutions that you can take back to your organization.
The first thing that I'd like each of you to do – and I realize I'm probably preaching to the choir here – is I'd like you to consider yourself and encourage the employees with whom you work to consider themselves. Because all too often we think about stress in terms of how other people stress us out and how external stressors impinge upon our freedoms and our ability to do our job. But I think as HR continues to take a leadership role within organizations, I think one of the things that we need to do as leaders within our own companies is to ask ourselves, "How do I elicit stress in others?" If everyone did this, the world would be a much less stressed-out place and a much better place, and I just think that it's the responsible leaderly thing to do.
A lot of times I think about this in terms of personality traits because that's something that we do at IncBlot, is personality profiling and pre-employment assessment. There are personality characteristics that each of us has that are neither good nor bad, but that when we bump up against other people who are not like us, can be stressful to us. For instance, extroverts tend to think out loud and think on their feet and want to verbally run their ideas past everyone they see. Whereas an introvert tends to have a more rich internal world, and internal experience that way. So when an introvert comes upon an extroverted boss, say, who is always spouting out these ideas, that introvert might think that every idea that comes out of her boss's mouth is something that needs to be run with and implemented, whereas the extrovert is simply thinking. That's just an example how simple miscommunications can lead to stress.
So think about your own personality. Think about your own little quirks and ask yourself, "Hey, is there anything that I could do to make others' work lives more enjoyable and less stressful?"
A second motto that I subscribe to is Zappo's motto – and they're not the first nor will they be the last to champion this – that organizations should be slow to hire and quick to fire. I think we have all had the experience of one or two people within an organization, especially in a small business, having a disproportionately bad, or disproportionately stressful impact on the rest of the workplace. A lot of times a team, that is otherwise very, very high functioning, can be dragged down by the one person who is a poor organizational fit. The word corporation, of course, is taken from the Latin word corpus which means body. I like to think of acting in terms of what is best for the body of the organization, what is best for the whole, rather than what is best for a single individual. It would be my advice that if one individual is exerting a disproportionately negative influence or being what's sort of colloquially referred to as an energy vampire, I think that that person should be moved out of the organization.
A third thing that I think folks can do and that organizations can assist with, is to learn about the connection between mind and body, and to provide healthy snacks that have the intended impact of reducing stress. I'm from the south. I'm from here in Alabama, and I think we're probably especially bad about this down here, but a lot of times under stress, we turn to comfort foods. I lump a lot of things into comfort foods which would include alcohol, caffeine, and things that are highly fattening foods, and foods with high sugar content. The way to think about comfort foods is, they do indeed comfort us in the short-term. The reason that we sort of gravitate towards these foods during times of stress is because there is indeed an immediate pay-off. But the thing to remember about all these comfort foods is that immediate chaos comes with a later price.
I've illustrated a little bit of that here with caffeine. So, caffeine gives us an immediate adrenaline boost, but then later, our adrenaline goes south of that mid-point where it was before. So in the immediate future you do get that bump, but you pay for it down the road. It also increases the level of cortisol, which you've probably seen in commercials. Cortisol is the stress hormone that also leads you to retain visceral fat, or that fat around your mid-section or your stomach there. Interestingly enough, there's actually something in the DSM, which is sort of the psychiatrist bible there, there's actually Caffeine Induced Panic Disorder. If we take in caffeine in great enough quantities, it can even mimic mental illness. It can even look a lot like panic disorder.
So we could have a similar conversation about fattening foods, sugary foods, alcohol and a number of things. They do provide a very short-term fix but we pay for it later, whether it's with sort of the regret of having eaten that, or then the physical withdrawal and things. So I don't believe in in saying that you should never have these things. I think a good rule of thumb is all things in moderation. If you need something fattening or carb-heavy to get you through a tough afternoon on a very rare occasion, then hey, go for it. But don't make it a habit and know what you're getting into when you take those things on.
Consistent with this mind-body connection that we're talking about, another thing that organizations can help to do, is to get their folks moving. Be that through wellness programs, be that informally through encouraging one another to have healthy habits. It's hard to over-emphasize the positive impact of exercise on stress reduction. There's a number of things that exercise does to reduce stress.
The first is that it increases these good feeling endorphins. Exercise, I often refer to it as medication in motion, because anyone who has run or walked, or really gotten in the zone with exercising, you get to that point where the worries of the day and the things that have been so on your mind sort of start to drift off and there's a quiet to that. And I know if you're just getting into running, sometimes the pain of all that– maybe you don't get to that quiet quite as fast. But trust me, exercise has been shown to actually be a lot like meditation, and I think it can be a powerful substitute for meditation for people who might find the actual act of meditation to be a little too new age-y, or for people who would have a hard getting into that, they might be more willing to go for a jog.
Exercise has been shown to lower symptoms of depression and anxiety. I think anyone who exercises with any regularity can attest to the fact that exercise boosts self-confidence. It makes people worry less, feel better about themselves. And then of course there's a physical impact of just maintaining a healthy weight and all that goes along with that in terms of a boost to the self-confidence. So exercise, seemingly a very simple thing, probably not a surprise to anyone, but something that study after study shows the vast majority of Americans are not getting enough of.
Another thing that of course a psychologist is going to bring to the table, is that the mind is a powerful thing. A mind is a powerful thing in terms of managing our stress. I've listed here what a shrink like myself might call a cognitive distortion. Basically, what a cognitive distortion is, is just any sort of overly-emotional or irrational way of thinking. And humans have a number of ways of engaging in this irrational thinking, in ways that negatively impact their stress levels. So a couple of these things that we do.
One is fortune-telling. We try and predict the future or project forward to what's going to happen, maybe within our company. "How is the merger going to turn out?" or "Is my boss going to stick around?" or "Is my friend going to stick around?" And we try and see the future. The problem with that is A, we're not very good at that, and B, that we tend to see the future as a lot more negative than it typically is. Because typically what we're trying to do is to protect ourselves when we're engaging in this fortune-telling, so the future that we imagine is oftentimes a lot more bleak than what the actual future will look like. Because, as the saying goes, we're kind of preparing ourselves for the worst. So we imagine a sort of ugly future, we start to think of that as how it's really going to be, and we start to stress out accordingly. Disqualifying the positives is a lot like what it sounds like – magnifying the negative pieces of our lives and throwing out the positive parts as just chance, all or nothing thinking. I see a lot of people engaging in what's called catastrophic thinking, or thinking that things are going to be a lot worse than they are.
Then that last thing you'll see there is personalization, where people start to stress out because they personalize things or put things on their own shoulders that they really have no control over. So, maybe things aren't going well in the business, for a small business owner, and he or she might start to attribute pieces of that bad luck to themselves that they really had no control over, and that's a very helpless and stressful feeling.
So if any of you are engaging, or know someone who's engaging in the cognitive distortions of these irrational thoughts, if you just search those terms online, there are actually quite a few good little self-help resources. And then of course if it escalates to a certain point, you'd want to contact your employee assistance program or a mental health professional. But the mind is a powerful thing, and the mind really creates the world that we walk around in. And so if your mind is sort of over-amplifying the negative pieces of your work, then there's going to be a lot of stress that comes along with that.
We talked in the first seminar about the three stages of the stress response. The first is alarm. This is when we initially become aware, we initially become aroused, we initially become aware that things aren't as they should be. Maybe we start to sweat, our heart starts to race, these sorts of things. It triggers that initial stress response. Over time, we resist that in the second phase, called resistance. We resist that, we continue to fight that, and our brain's activated and our heart's racing all these things are going on as we try to resolve that stressor. If we can't bring that stressor to a positive resolution in that second resistance phase, we eventually wear right out and we get into the exhaustion phase. Indeed, it's in the exhaustion phase where we see people coming apart, yelling at people, being irritable, and sort of what we would talk about as being stressed out or having a breakdown, those sorts of things.
We talked in the first session about how this alarm-resistance-exhaustion cycle looks so much different in our own day than it did hundreds of thousands of years ago. It used to be that most threats to our well-being were physical threats, like our ancient ancestors getting chased by a lion, or something like that. There's that initial alarm when you see a lion. You run away from it, and you get away from it or you don't, and you're either a goner or the stressor is gone. But you're able then to come back to that equilibrium state that we talked about earlier on. In everyday corporate America, that's not the case at all. We talked about being leashed to a Blackberry or an iPhone, and being always on call and being always on this leash leads to a perpetual state of alarm and resistance, because we never know when that next email is going to come in. We never know when that next call is going to come in.
And indeed, even the traditional 8:00 to 6:00 barriers of work have broken down in the age of technology, because we're always reachable – be it after hours, before hours, or on the weekend. We're always reachable by phone or by text or by email, and that leads to a constant state of alarm and resistance, and can eventually lead to that exhaustion that we talked about.
So I think the businesses that really, really care about their people will also give them a break from being on-call, and not expect that they always be vigilant for email, not expect an answer on a Sunday or a Saturday perhaps in the same sort of short period that they would on a Tuesday or a Wednesday because they understand that people do need that break, and that time to rejuvenate and be back on their feet. Certainly, there are some professions – medical professions and other folks – who do legitimately always need to be on call. But I think even those individuals there, the organizations need to realize the impact of this and make special allowances, so that when they're on vacation or spending certain times with their families that they're immune from getting bugged or contacted in that way. Because the toll can be really significant. And I can't emphasize enough how important it is to tame technology.
Another thing to be aware of that I think is little understood by people is this concept of eustress. Eustress is derived from the same word as euphoria, and basically it means good stress. So, an example of eustress would be getting married, buying a house, changing jobs for a job you love, taking on new responsibilities at work, these sorts of things would all be considered eustress. They're good things that are happening to you, but that doesn't mean they're not stressful. We talked before about stress in terms of equilibrium and anything that moves you off that set middle point, counts as being stressful. Something like having a baby or taking a promotion at work or moving to a new job, these things could be long hoped for and dreamed for and very much appreciated, but they still move you out of that comfort zone and they're still very stressful. People who are wise to stress management know that they don't just look for stress when things are falling apart, but even in businesses that are really blowing and going, hiring lots of people, making lots of money, sometimes that can be incredibly stressful too, and it can be a little bit sneakier. So, I always tell people, "Don't let eustress sneak up on you, because you're probably not looking for it."
Another thing to be aware of the impact that organizational change brings to the stress management equation. In the current business environment, organizational change, a lot of times is spoken about in glowing terms. We have a lot of "change or die" and these sorts of phrases that speak to the business world adoration of change, and we revere organizations that change quickly and are nimble and are able to think on their feet. The fact of the matter is, that's all true. Businesses have to change or die, and things revolve more quickly than they used to given the pace of technology. But a second truth is that change is difficult for human beings. We have a lot of systems in our bodies set up to keep things the way that they've been, because we're comfortable in our rut. We're comfortable with a niche and we're comfortable doing things that we've done for a long time. One thing that I encourage business leaders to do is to really, really be thoughtful when undertaking change.
Change, or change aversion, or the propensity to change, or the propensity to resist change, is actually normally distributed in the population. Which means if you draw one of those bell curves like you would for IQ or other things, you would see that, if you went out and tested the world, or the US, people are at all parts of that bell curve. Some people are very, very open to change, whereas some people are very, very resistant to change and find it very stressful.
What we find time and again is that people who are very open to change, tend to rise higher within the organization and be in charge of making more strategic decisions. Whereas people who tend to resist change and have a more difficult time with it, are typically over represented among the doers of the world – the doers who are maybe down a little bit in the organization. So what we see organizationally then is a lot of times we have senior executive teams implementing change after change with no real regard for how these dreams they have and these strategic visions that they have, impact the folks that they lead. So, change is necessary. Change can be good, but I just encourage folks to make sure that there is a viable business case for making whatever change is being considered, because inevitably it does upset the apple tart a little bit.
So we're going to talk real quickly – some of these will be a review – but we want to talk real quickly about five ways to reduce stress in the workplace, and then I'll give a little case study. One of the things that I stress – no pun intended – is for organizations to be real. If you look back at Enron's values, Enron had these four values that were respect, integrity, communication, and excellence. And these four values were etched in stone on the front of their corporate headquarters. What is stressful then, is espousing this set of values and then living within an organization that does not walk that talk. Whatever organization you're a part of, I will wager that you have a mission and vision and values and these lofty aspirational things that your company aspires to, and you've probably got them written down somewhere on a poster. Well, it becomes very, very stressful for your employees if your company espouses one set of values and preaches one set of values, and then does not act in accordance with those. People want to be honest. People want to be as good as their word. And so, I think organizations that care deeply about managing stress also care deeply about having a mission, vision and values that are consistent with the way things really play out.
The second thing to consider is that employees are a wellspring of information on this. Get people who have the ear of the people in the trenches – they're going to know a whole lot about how stressful your workplace is. A lot of times organizations want to insulate themselves from this, but through surveys or even just management by walking around, I think there's a lot of information to be had, if you but listen to your employees. A big piece of that then, is if you're going to listen to them and ask them questions, is to drive open communications and not slap their hands if you hear something that you don't want to hear. Because nothing will shut down the dialogue more quickly than asking a question, getting a tough answer, and then discouraging that – even through your body language or more overtly.
Create healthy lifestyle programs. I think we're all aware of wellness programs, EAP programs, and things like this, and I think they can be immensely valuable. If your organization is small or if money is tight, I think there are still things you can do informally, like I talked about where, you maybe lead out and start a jogging club or start to stock the fridge with healthier snacks or stock the fridge with water instead of Coke, just little things that you can do to try to impact the wellness of your organization.
Then finally, just like we talked about before, helping the executive leaders – if that's you or if that's someone else – helping the executive leaders understand the way that every little change they introduce, moves that equilibrium needle of the people that are tasked with implementing that change, and helping them realize that that can be stressful.
I know that this can get theoretical, so something that Monster and I wanted to do was to talk about an organization with whom I work, and how these things live within an organization that I think is incredibly adept at managing stress within their organization. So the client that I'll be highlighting here is a company named Clearlink, that's based in Salt Lake City.
Clearlink does a number of things really well to manage stress within their organization. I think first of all they have a very thorough vetting process. They use personality assessments, a series of interviews, and have really identified what is for them a gold standard of who they want to hire. And they're very picky about who they hire. So knowing that they're getting quality people is a big piece of that. And then the other piece is that people know from the outset what parts of them are a good fit for the organization, and what pieces are maybe areas for development, and so they start that feedback process early.
We talked earlier about being introspective, about personality, and how that plays out in the workplace, and that I think is a standard that you set in a practice, that you begin, before the offer letter even goes out the door. That's something that they do very well. They have a very well-defined set of values, and they hire relative to those values. They have a zen room. They call it the Zen Den. I remember my first trip to Clearlink. They have a really great room set aside, a big piece of real estate with lots of nice furniture and places to relax. This is not some conference room or anything like that. This is a room that they have paid money and set aside for people who just need to take a moment to reflect, to turn the lights off and be by themselves, or whatever it is. And much to my dismay on the day that I arrived, because I was jonesing for some caffeine, I'm a big Diet Coke fan – the fridge in the Zen Den is stocked exclusively with healthy drinks and healthy snacks. There's a variety of waters and different juices and things like that and some low-calorie alternatives, but I was unable to score my Diet Coke that day. But good for them for providing a place where people can duck out, take a moment, and have those healthy snacks.
Notably they also have 100percent health coverage, which reduces I think a lot of stress, and have great fitness and wellness programs. This is a small business and they did a program recently where the employee base lost over 300 pounds as a result of this wellness program and gym memberships that they offer. I think they do a fantastic job of that.
Then finally, you might suspect that Clearlink being a young organization and very technology savvy, young employees, young CEO, you might think that they'd be prone to making too many changes. But it's been my experience with them that they're very thoughtful about how they go about changing things, and make sure that there's a business purpose tied to whatever changes they make.
Hopefully that just gives you a better idea of how through a few simple steps, a small business that's not as cash flush perhaps as some of these giants, is still able to make small steps and do small things that have a big impact on the wellness and the stress level of the employees.
I told the staff at Monster, when they asked me to speak about this – they asked me if I would speak about managing stress and sort of the bottom line impact of stress – and I said that I would. But I also gave the caveat that sometimes I really have a tough time talking about stress, because all of the fixes for stress are very, very simple and they're kind of intuitive. You know, we've talked about it. It's managing our thoughts, it's eating healthily, exercising, being good to one another, being introspective, managing change.
All of these things I probably could have asked anyone on this phone call and you could have come up with at least a partial list of some of these things as ways to manage stress. Sometimes I dislike talking about stress management because it seems like everyone has already heard it all before. But for the question I'd like to ask you to be self-reflective about in closing is: how many of these things are you doing personally, and how many of these things do you implement in your organization in an enterprise system-wide way? I know, myself, I could speak to you all day about the evils of caffeine relative to stress, but continue to drink Diet Coke by the two-liter. Again, I think a lot of times there's a big, big disconnect between what we know about stress and what we do about stress. So if there's one thing that I could emphasize to you as we round out our session today, it's that I hope that you've gotten one or two new ideas for ways that you can manage stress within your own organization or your own personal life, but I'd also encourage you to do the blocking and tackling of stress, which is just the stuff that the fixes may not be extraordinary, but I know that a small difference can make a big deal, to make a big, big change in your life or your organization's life.
In summary, you just got some of the things that we talked about there, and so that concludes my piece and now I'll just open it back up to Randi and the gang. Just in closing, one of the things that I always grieve about these sessions, that I know there are hundreds of you listening and I don't get to speak with or interact with any of you. So again, if you'd like to be in touch, you've got the website there. We're very active on Twitter at IncBlot, or you can reach out to me personally and I'd love to hear from you. Thank you.
Dr. Crosby, thank you so very much for sharing your insight and your knowledge with everyone today. At this time I'd like to also ask our meeting manager to help support our Q&A questions. If you could talk about how people can ask questions over the phone?
Ladies and gentlemen, if you would like to register a question, please press the 1 followed by the 4 on your telephone. You'll hear a three-tone prompt to acknowledge your request. Your line will then briefly be accessed from the conference to obtain your information. If your question has been answered and you would like to withdraw your registration, please press the 1 followed by the 3. If you're using a speakerphone, please lift your handset before entering your request. As a reminder, it is the 1 followed by the 4 to register.
While we're waiting for any questions on the phone, we do have some questions that have been typed into us through the web exchange. If anyone wishes to type in a question, they may do so as well. The first question is, "My organization reduced staff in the last three years, and they haven't rehired. Everyone is wearing many hats, and is very stressed. Now that the economy is improving, we're worried about retention, but senior management won't commit to hiring yet. What can we do?"
Oh, my goodness. I think there are a lot of people in that boat. I think first of all organizations need to ask themselves the question: are we at an appropriate level? Because I think the organizations that are really going to get hit, are the ones that are making people wear so many hats that they're really stressing people out. I think that I am personally of the mind that the great recession is going to bring unemployment to– I don't know that we're gonna see 4percent unemployment again in the near future, because I think organizations have learned what they could and could not live without in the last couple of years. I think the organizations that are gonna really struggle with retention though, are the ones that try and cut it so close to the bone, that people wear so many hats, that they stress out and they burn out and they jump ship. I guess that's a really difficult question, but for my money the answer is to try and do that digging within the organization. And tap the people as that valuable source of knowledge that we talked about and see what's the mood, what's the sentiment. Are people overworked or was this just an appropriate readjustment and shift, or is it too much and do we need to hire a few more people? But ultimately, if the organization is unwilling to do that, maybe it takes people jumping ship for them to learn that lesson.
We have another question about stress. What's a good way to initiate a conversation with your employees about their stress, or with your boss about your own personal stress?
I think stress is a relatively new term. Stress as a concept is only about 50 or 60 years old. I'm really happy with, and pleased with the way that it's sort of worked its way into our everyday conversations. I don't think its nearly, nearly as stigmatized as are things like depression, and anxiety, and sadness, and related constructs. I think it's really easy to have a conversation with people about stress, because I think it's something we all deal with. I don't find that most leaders stigmatize someone for saying they're under stress. I think it's always best to talk to business leaders about these things in terms of bottom-line impact and job performance. The reason that we sort of kickoff the whole affair with some of those numbers that hopefully you could use to initiate this sort of conversation, is because I think business leaders tend to respond to that more than they do more the feeling or emotional parts of stress. But to say, "Hey, I'm feeling a lot of stress because of XYZ, and it's impacting my job performance in these noticeable ways," or to kick off a similar conversation about more organizational or institutional stress as an HR practitioner, to say, "Hey I've observed that job performance is suffering," or "These metrics are suffering as a result of stress," and I think you'll have that individual's ear in no time.
Operator, can I ask if there are any questions over the phone?
There are no questions at this time. Ladies and gentlemen, as a reminder, it is the 1 followed by the 4.
You know I think it's just a mark of our times, that most people like to text in their questions these days. Here's another question that we have. It says, "How can you help a spouse or a partner with their job related stress?"
I think a lot of the things that you've learned today generalize. I really believe that these things are pretty applicable, whether you are talking about your spouse, your partner, or someone with whom you work. A lot of the best practices that we talked about are going to be the same. I think its always more powerful when you can get them to talk about it themselves, and to bring up the problems themselves. So I would always encourage people to sort of open the door to that conversation and let them admit that they have a problem, rather than you sort of swooping and forcing this idea that they have a problem upon them. I think once that's on the table, then you can say, "Hey, I'm aware of these resources via exercise, meditation, therapy," whatever it may be that you think that suits them. And help them with that. And then sometimes I think you need to escalate it. I mean, both myself and my wife have been in the position where it took a gentle push from the other to say, "Hey, you're really miserable at work. Maybe it's time to make a more drastic correction in terms of looking for a new job or heading in a new direction." And supporting them in that endeavor because I'm not so Pollyanna-ish to think that sometimes it's just too far gone. The things at work– it's just not a good fit, and you need to head in a new direction. So, when that's the case, supporting them in that new direction as well.
We actually– this is another question, I'm sorry. We have actually had an employee who had taken medical leave due to stress. How can we reintroduce them to work so that doesn't happen again?
I think it's going to depend entirely on the stressor that would be specific to that person's reasons for leaving. There are as many stressors as there are people, and so sort of understanding, a deeper understanding of what caused them to be stressed out in the first place and to leave, I think I'd need that to be in place before I could answer that with much specificity. But Einstein said if he had an hour to save the world, he'd spend 55 minutes defining the problem and 5 minutes looking for a solution, and I'd give similar advice there. I would really dig as deeply as was appropriate to try and understand that person's reasons for leaving and really get an understanding of that, and it's my opinion that the course corrections would then become self-evident if you had a really deep and thorough understanding of why they were stressed, and why they'd needed to take that leave in the first place.
We have another question here that talks about what can an organization do off-budget without changing the benefit plans, et cetera, to reduce stress?
I think training leaders in some of these best practices that we talked about, encouraging people to be more introspective about the way that they go about their life as it impacts other people's stress level, you can do that for free. You could send out a thing on basic coping mechanisms and thought-stopping techniques relative to those cognitive distortions we talked about. You can do that for free. You could take the lead and encourage people to eat more healthily and stock the break room with healthier snacks. You can do that for next to free. I'm sort of a believer that small fixes can lead to big results sometimes. I don't necessarily propose hiring an expensive consultant or getting a very involved bonus plan because I think a lot of this stuff can be done internally. I think so much of it just comes from the way that leaders go about their business. I think people quit their boss way more than they quit their job. I think it's 80percent of people. Just even educating or training leaders, as we talked about, to the ways that change impacts stress, to the way that their interpersonal style impacts stress, I think that that has at least as big an impact as some of the more physical things that we've talked about. So, I say don't worry if you don't have much of a budget. There's still a whole lot that can be done.
That's great. That's a great response. I didn't even think about how that works here as well. We have another question that came in. It says, "What do you do when your employees indicate that they're stressed because the expectations of their job, not able to meet the expectations. We have to send them to a medical doctor for evaluation for a worker's compensation claim." Wow.
Oh my goodness. I don't have any knowledge of worker's compensation legislation or anything of that matter. How do I say this? It is my experience that some people will sandbag, and no matter how much or how little work you gave them, it would always be too much. However, there's also something, and I'm forgetting the name of the concept here, but we have a difficult time gauging how long it will take other people to complete a task. When managers assign our tasks, we're not always very good judges of how long we should get someone to do that, or how difficult it will be. So I think what you'd have to do is gather more data to say, "Hey, is this an isolated incident? Or does this person maybe not have the skill fit or intellectual horsepower or whatever to do this job? Or is this more of a pattern where this leader within the organization is consistently unrealistic in his or her expectations? Or do we hear this across the board, or is this more of an isolated incident?" I draw on my own experience as well, because I've certainly seen both sides of that coin in organizations. And so, I think at that point you really need to look for patterns.
Could I just ask if there's any other questions on the phone?
We still do not have any questions on the phone lines.
I really do think people like to text. Dr Crosby, I have one last question for you that has come in. It says, "How can you tell if the plans you've put in place to reduce stress are working?"
Again, I think there's two ways. I think the most parsimonious, like the easiest way to figure that out is to point you back to the slide that told you what a rich source of information your employee base is. I think there's probably no easier way than just managing by speaking with those people, and getting a sense of where they're at, identifying people within your organization that are centers of influence, people to whom other people flock to tell their secrets or to convene around the water cooler. And get a sense from those centers of influence of, "Hey, how is this going?" Again, I'd favor an informal process over some sort of survey or something. And then, back to our very earliest conversation today, I think if stress is being reduced in the organization, I think there should be positive behavioral and financial fall-out from that. I think you'd see fewer doors closed. I think you'd see more smiles, more laughter, maybe a healthier bottom line, people working harder, more engagement in meetings, more participation and speaking up, less absenteeism. I think all of these things are part of more observable metrics that I think you could also expect to improve over time if stress is indeed being lessened within the organization.
I think we have quite a lot of questions that have come in from our audience, so at this time I'd like to just really thank you very much for sharing your expertise with us today and talking about stress, which is a huge issue I think in today's workforce, especially when a lot of organizations are worried, as one of our audience members indicated, about retention of their employees. But we're almost at the top of the hour, so at this point, Dr Crosby, I'm going to conclude our event. I will tell our audience that a recording of this event as well as the presentation materials will be available shortly on our hiring site, hiring.monster.com, all located under the Resource Center tab. And part one of this series is there right now.
Thanks again very much everyone for joining us. Join us again on November 9th for another Monster Intelligence exclusive webinar. The November 9th webinar will talk about eight critical retention requirements for millennials, that they look for from an employer. Everyone have a phenomenal day. We'll see you on November 9th.