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STRESS HAPPENS, EVEN IN GOVERNMENT Boston Chapter of AGA January 23, 2014 By Art “Bubba” “The Body Snatcher” Hayes 1.

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Presentation on theme: "STRESS HAPPENS, EVEN IN GOVERNMENT Boston Chapter of AGA January 23, 2014 By Art “Bubba” “The Body Snatcher” Hayes 1."— Presentation transcript:

1 STRESS HAPPENS, EVEN IN GOVERNMENT Boston Chapter of AGA January 23, 2014 By Art “Bubba” “The Body Snatcher” Hayes 1

2 FIVE PARTS TO THIS SESSION OVERVIEW OF STRESS STRESSORS IN OUR LIVES IN GENERAL ANTIDOTES VISION ANGER STRESSORS IN OUR PROFESSIONAL LIVES PRACTICAL EXERCISES (HANDOUTS) 2

3 It’s all about change What are the four truths about change? It is: 1. ______________ 2. ______________ 3. ______________ 4. ______________ 3

4 Professor William James of Harvard University— 4 Compared to what we ought to be, we are only half-awake. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources. Stating the thing broadly, the human individual thus lives far within his limits. He possesses powers of various sorts which he habitually fails to use.

5 Dr. John G. Hibben, former president of Princeton University— 5 Education is the ability to meet life’s situations. The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action.

6 GENERAL THOUGHTS ON STRESS TRUTHS ABOUT STRESS In large measure, there are few truly unexpected stressors in our lives. As a result, we can do a lot to control or at least anticipate our stressors, rather than just being confounded by them. Our thoughts are important in considering our approach to stress management, but our emotions are probably even more important. In general, it is people who cause us stress, not things or circumstances. 6

7 Even though things and circumstances do cause some level of stress for us, stress emanating from those areas are relatively easier to manage than the stress coming from persons. Although thoughts are important as we try to change our behavior patterns, in particular, our reactions to stressors, the easiest things to change are our actions, rather than our mind sets. Trying to change our attitudes or the attitudes of others is very difficult and usually a dysfunctional exercise 7

8 The struggle of dealing with stress is not an isolated activity—to be successful, we must integrate these efforts with the other work we have before us as we strive for improvement in our personal and professional lives. Since our main struggle relative to stress is with other human beings, unless we face those facts we will be doomed to continuous stress without hope of escape. Effective communication is critical to engaging our stressful situations. 8

9 Assertiveness is not aggression, unless we lose control and focus on our ultimate goal-to reduce stress to acceptable levels. The most critical aspect of better communication has to be with ourselves. Everyone has coping mechanisms, it is just some are quite dysfunctional and even unconscious. The first step is to identify the stressors. The second, and harder step, is to develop effective strategies for dealing with them. 9

10 Stressors First, I would ask you to take a few moments and list the things that stress you on a typical day. Now, that will require some memory on your part. And this is just a start. For I am sure you will think of other things later you cannot believe you forgot to write down now. And it is essential that you write them down!! We are all familiar with the phrase, if it is not documented, it does not exist. And there is a reason for that. Fleeting thoughts are just that—they don’t stick. And why waste your energies trying to remember things? Let’s save that brain power for the more important aspects of the exercise— thinking of creative remedies. 10

11 It may help to just review the chronological progression of a typical day, so you are less likely to omit something. Of course, there are many different “typical” days, weekends are usually different from work days, days we travel are different from days we do not, and days we have many meetings are different from those when meetings are less frequent. There are many other permutations, and part of the value of this exercise is for you to reflect on the variations of your activities. 11

12 some time later you may find you have forgotten some other stressors. A value of this exercise is, hopefully, it will become a longer lasting effort than just the few moments you spend in the class. In fact, one of the problems with the way many of us “run” our lives is that although we find ourselves in stressful situations all the time and spend too much time fretting over such things. We only think about doing something about the stress when it is presented as a discreet topic, somewhat divorced from our day-to-day activities. The word “holistic” is sometimes overworked, but it is true that when we compartmentalize our lives as we so often do, we miss the opportunities which are otherwise available to us to fold in consideration of stress remedies in our daily actions. 12

13 Now list the things which make you happy. (Let’s call them antidotes.) List the things which make you happy. And write them down!! Unlike the things creating stress for you, I would recommend that you not list these in some chronological framework. Rather, just think about what pleases you. There may be a tendency to be less specific with these items. For example, you might like to “read” or “go walking.” For the first analysis of these items, that is okay. 13

14 Now, list the last time you engaged in the activity. Now, list how many times you engage in this activity during a typical week. Now, when did you start doing this activity? Now, list any favorite activities you used to do that you do not do anymore. 14

15 Why do you not do them any longer? Is it because of physical limitations or other barriers, i.e., the death of someone you used to enjoy doing this with? Now, do not forget to go back later and re-examine this list—you may have forgotten some things. And, as we did with the stressors, be sure and write all this down so you do not have to start all over again later 15

16 Are there things in list B causing you stress because you do not/cannot do them any longer? Now, think about the last funeral you went to. Do you remember the words which were spoken? Now, think of a personal mentor or a close friend. I would recommend that you think of a favorite teacher or someone who might have believed in you when you were just getting started, who encouraged you when you really needed it. If that person has not died, imagine you are asked to say some words at his or her funeral. How would you describe them? What were the endearing characteristics which drew you toward them? 16

17 Consider those traits and how they might be found in your life too… Also think about what might be said about you at your funeral. And don’t be so hard on yourself…you are a good person and have many great traits.. This is your chance to write your own eulogy!!! To get it right before it is too late…. 17

18 What is your vision? Your long term goals? Spend some time thinking about this…every day!!! Where do you want to be in 1 year, 5 years and longer? What do you want to be doing? Look at your list of stressors and your list of antidotes and expand on them. Incorporate them into your vision statement. Develop and amend your vision statement in writing!!! 18

19 A word or three about ANGER Anger is a basic human emotion that is experienced by all people. Typically triggered by an emotional hurt, anger is usually experienced as an unpleasant feeling that occurs when we think we have been injured, mistreated, opposed in our long-held views, or when we are faced with obstacles that keep us from attaining personal goals. 19

20 Anger itself is not good or bad.. It is essential at times to get angry…it can be a very good coping mechanism—to protect someone else But it can certainly become problematic…interfering with our daily routines. 20

21 Just how does anger work? Events have no emotional value per se. Anger is produced by an interaction, a fusion, of our thoughts, our bodily changes, and behavior triggered by external events known as provocations. We respond to provocations through an anger feedback loop involving the above factors 21

22 Is there such a thing as valid anger? Does anger ever have a positive function? In fact, your anger is always valid!! Everyone’s anger is always valid. It is your human right to feel and experience anger. In fact, one of the main problems with anger is that we try to suppress it We feel guilty about it. We argue with ourselves about whether we have the right to be angry in a particular situation. 22

23 So when are we usually prone to react to something angrily? When we appraise an event or a person as a threat to our basic needs, including identity, recognition, achievement and self-worth. But our appraisal may be distorted—we try to read other people’s minds. In some cases, because of prior experiences, we have strong feelings, hot cognitions, which are very intense. Our actions can appear so unreasonable people become afraid—they do not know what will set us off!! So what is the way to change? 23

24 Be better able to identify, anticipate and understand your provocations. Be able to change your thoughts and responses to the provocations. Initiate and substitute productive ways of dealing with your anger. (In short, short-circuit the automatic cycle.) 24

25 We have to validate our anger. Admit to ourselves we are angry when we are angry!! Say to yourself, “I’m angry now!” And you need to be able to validate the anger of others who are in your life. It cannot be suppressed without causing even more trouble!! 25

26 The real question is not whether your anger is valid or not. The real issue is whether, in the particular situation, it is needless or adaptive. You must learn to ask yourself: “Is my anger helping me in this situation?” If not, it is needless—you need to find a more productive response to achieve your goal. Anger is frequently needless because of the way we use it!! 26

27 What are some of the effects of self- anger? Complete the following statements: I get angry at myself when … I get angry at myself for …. What do you think the basis for self-anger is? 27

28 Listening to your body!!! How do you know when you are getting angry? It is a source of information. How do you know when you are hungry, thirsty, tired? It is a question of taking control of yourself. And taking care of yourself!! You need to become responsive to your body’s needs. Failure to hear your body means you cannot take care of it!! 28

29 Use the signals from your body to give you cues to when it’s time to soothe yourself and to find out what is wrong, what is causing the tension. TENSION—THE INITIAL STAGE OF ANGER-AROUSAL. When we feel strung out, we are more easily provoked. Our ability to cope is reduced. We might treat a minor incident as a major catastrophe. FREEZE—HOLD A POSITION FOR TEN MINUTES. Movement directly induces relaxation because muscles work in pairs. One group relaxes while the other contracts. 29

30 STRESSORS IN OUR PROFESSIONAL LIVES DYSFUNCTIONAL THINKING AND BEHAVIOR IN THE OFFICE 30

31 Dysfunctional thinking about stress- Expecting Somebody Else to Reduce Our Stress Stress caused by change being forced on us!!! If change causes stress, who is causing the change? And can they not stop it? Higher management are the villains! They call the shots They should be held accountable!?! 31

32 What is wrong with this picture? The truth regarding management’s actions More than likely just reactions Responses to outside pressures New requirements Standards Legislative, constituent demands Stiff competition Economic turns New technology Customer expectations Media pressures Are the real root causes of the change But not so fast! 32

33 Somebody made a bad call! They could have handled the situation better! So they caused unnecessary stress to me! They should protect us from “it”! 33

34 But, so what?! You expect them to “un-do” the change? They probably think it was a good change. A different viewpoint This is how they wanted it! Besides, even more changes may bring even more stress. 34

35 How about you? Do not count on anybody else coming along to relieve your stress. Put yourself in charge of managing the pressure. 35

36 There is a good chance you are the only one in your work situation who— Will, or Even can Do much to lighten your psychological load. 36

37 Deciding You Just Will Not Change! Must you change just because your organization changes? Of course not! People make this decision all the time! They do not want any part of the new program. So, just resist! It may even be unconscious. Options— Fight out in the open. Make noise. Be sneaky. Behind the scenes! 37

38 Consequences Whatever strategy you choose to resist You set yourself up for a very tough emotional struggle 38

39 Resisting change is one of the most common causes of stress of the job! And we bring it on ourselves! The typical view. The changes give birth to all the stress. Rather than blaming their own mistakes in how they personally react to the situation. We waste far more emotional energy desperately hanging on to old habits and beliefs than it would take to embrace the changes. We also are lousy at weighing the odds for success in resisting change. Usually it is a lost cause! 39

40 Consider the questions: Does it make sense to assume we can remain effective in a changing organization without changing ourselves? If the world is forcing organizations to do business differently, can we as individuals expect to succeed if we keep going at our jobs in the same old way? 40

41 Point: You have a choice. You may not like the options, but you have a say in how you react to change! The organization will change – it MUST! To survive and prosper. Do not bang your head against the wall of hard reality. It will bruise your spirit. Invest your energy in making quick adjustments. Turn when the organization turns. Practice instant alignment. Your own decisions may do more to determine your stress level than anything the organization decides to do. 41

42 Be the Victim When you decide you are helpless, stress ratchets up very quickly. Convince yourself there is little you can do about the situation. Notice how much worse you feel now? 42

43 How do you become a victim? Emphasize the unfairness of it all. Play “poor me.” Ignore opportunities the changes may imply/provide. Focus on what is being lost. The sacrifices you must make. Assume if you feel sorry enough for yourself, others will also start feeling sorry for you! 43

44 Find somebody else to blame. They have caused your problems. Shift accountability for your behavior and attitude Away from yourself. Is this not a cool maneuver? People try it all the time. BUT 44

45 It is very disempowering! It is almost unconscious. It sets us up to truly be a victim. We make ourselves even more expendable. Our public suffering makes us much less appealing as an employee. We believe that people say and thing “He/she is a real survivor!” But…..Is this a compliment or an insult? Why not be a real succeeder?! 45

46 Being a victim creates/abets a stress that perpetuates itself! A vicious cycle. Only we can break it ourselves! 46

47 Point: Hey, accept fate, things happen! Move on! Avoid yielding to the seductive pull of self-pity. (At least for any extended period of time.) Acting like a victim actually threatens your future. Act, instead, like you are resilient, remain productive. Stand tall, proud. Pick up the pieces. Put your career back together! 47

48 Another dysfunction Using the Old Rules to Play a New Game! Struggling to do a job in ways that are not working! Car stuck in second gear. Organizations are developing a very different set of expectations regarding -- Job performance Employee attitudes 48

49 Do not just try harder! Try differently. More effort is not the answer to addressing changes in your work situation. If you are failing to do the right things, working harder to do the wrong things will just increase stress and tension. If there are ACTUAL, BIG changes in the required work behavior. Jobs taking on totally new dimensions. Making new demands. Calling for new work habits. It may be stressful to make all the necessary adjustments, But if adapting is tough, imagine how tough it will be if you do not adapt. 49

50 You must be willing to alter your technique. Accept that what worked well in the past must be replaced with new routines. Change your mindset. Align your thinking with the new realities of the workplace. Pay close attention to the changes. We can avoid a lot of work pressure if we -- Learn the new rules, and Play by them. 50

51 Point: Study your work situation carefully. Figure out how the game has changed. How have the priorities been reordered? Decide which aspects of your job you should focus on You want to leverage up your effectiveness the most! 51

52 Just Shoot for a Low-Stress Work Situation The goal— A slower pace of change. Less pressure to perform. A more relaxed atmosphere. More low-keyed. What if top management concurs? They cut us some much needed slack 52

53 What do we get? Some relief! Our stress level drops. Geez – it works! BUT it is temporary! 53

54 A mirage! How about organizations? Would you agree that relatively slow moving organizations are headed for the most trouble? Are we buying a little time now, but mortgaging the future? Denying the problems leading to necessary change? Delaying the pain! Postponing tough times for even tougher times! 54

55 THE REAL QUESTION What is in your best interests? Being part of an organization that is struggling with all the stress and problems of change (Progress)? Feeling good for the moment and failing the hard truth. Stress of rapid change is here to stay! 55

56 Point: Do not believe there is such a thing as a low-stress organization that is on track to survive. Actually, you serve your best interests by aligning with an organization with the courage to endure the pains of change. Avoid those organizations which are destined to belly-up due to their desire for short-term comfort. 56

57 Another dysfunction: Try to Control the Uncontrollable! Overstepping your ability to affect the situation. Why resist the inevitable? Get all worked up trying to influence matters beyond your reach? Try to undo things that cannot be undone !! 57

58 Result: High level of frustration. Chronic stress! An incredible waste of time! Distracts our energy from things we can control! 58

59 The Death-Grip Scenario It is human nature to “go down fighting.” The more unstable/scary the situation As we seem to be losing our grip on things -- We tend to grip tighter, Struggle even more for control. 59

60 Point: Ask— Are you really in a position to control the situation? Will you just get emotionally tired from trying? Consider— Sometimes the most Mature, Dignified, Sensible response is to nobly accept what we cannot change. 60

61 Another dysfunction: Pace yourself. Okay—I will change, but let’s do it on my schedule! Partial cooperation. You do not mean to resist change, but— Do what is necessary to stay in your comfort zone. A plan to minimize stress. 61

62 Is there anything wrong with this approach? As you slow down relative to the changes occurring around you, you may fall further behind! May bring more pressure/stress. An effective organization cannot just lay back and let each employee change at their own personal pace. We know some will take forever to change. 62

63 The change in advertising— Mobil 1 Oil vs. Brand X! We are fooling ourselves that we are cooperating and not really resisting. It will catch up with us! Intent is not the issue. Impact is! Innocent motives do not count if our actions slow things down, we are resisting. Creates tension between us and the rest of the organization. 63

64 Point: Recognize the organization’s intended rate of change. Keep in step. Do not fall into taking as much time as you feel you need or want in order to change. Do not expect a lull in the action to give you a chance to play catch up! 64

65 Another dysfunction: I Just Cannot Quit Doing Some Things. Something has to go! We must abandon the expendable. Trying harder and harder can only take us so far. Pressures – Carry a heavier workload. Meet higher quality standards 65

66 Do it all faster. Smaller workforce. Consumer expectations Stiffer competition. 66

67 The Zero Sum Thing If we just keep taking on more and more and never give anything up-- We will eventually be overloaded. Something has to go. Unless we jettison some old baggage, we will not have room to take on new things that may give a much bigger payoff. 67

68 Why is it so hard? We hang onto old habits. Fold arms, hands We are unwilling to “quit.” Especially to quit doing things we can do well. Even if it’s no longer the most important thing for us to spend our time on! We focus on “doing things right,” not “doing the right thing right.” 68

69 Result: We act as though we are held accountable for our old jobs. In large part, those assignments do not even exist any longer! We cannot understand why we are not getting praise, even though we are doing the old jobs BETTER THAN EVER! We have missed (ignored?) how priorities and management expectations have changed. 69

70 Point: Re-engineer your job. Sort through your current work. Reorder your priorities. Figure out which tasks are expendable. Eliminate unnecessary steps. Get rid of busy-work. Dump those activities that do not contribute enough to the organization’s current goals. – Even if you do them masterfully! 70

71 Another dysfunction: Slow Down, Why Don’t ‘Cha? As change accelerates, we almost instinctively slow down! At least in our efforts to cope. Like slamming into a wall! Slow down. Proceed more cautiously. Buy some time so we can size up the situation and react more intelligently! Pull back. Play it safe. Minimize the risk. 71

72 Result: We get further behind. In extreme cases— Paralysis. Deer in the headlight. Then reality hits us. It is unlikely the organization will just let us slide. 72

73 Point: Speed up! Cover more ground. Put your faith and trust in action and mobility. Maximize your personal productivity. 73

74 Another dysfunction: Fear the Future! Be afraid, be very afraid! What is around the corner? How will it affect me? I don’t have any say in this. I don’t even know the agenda. I probably will not survive the next wave of cuts. Where will I find another job? 74

75 What does this do to us? Wears us down. Uses up our energy and emotions on worry We have little left to actually do any work. Fatigue from stress. Wasted energy. 75

76 A Fact: Tomorrow will come. It cannot be postponed. An Attitude: The best insurance policy for coping with the risks of tomorrow is to make the most productive use of today. 76

77 Point: Invest all that nervous energy in yourself. Exercise some control over your mind and your emotions. Turn your attention to getting busy; try to create the kind of future you want; do not just worry about possible bad things that might happen to you. 77

78 Another dysfunction: Strategy? My intuition almost makes up for my lack of judgment! What we do: Wage war on all fronts. Be a leader against all this change! Oppose every new move! Be a contrarian Buck all the odds. (In extreme cases fight for things that are actually against your best interests.) Trivial? No issue is too small! You cannot give in, they will think you are weak! (In extreme cases actually give major attention to the most insignificant issue.) Lost cause? No way! I can reverse the irreversible. I can stop the train. 78

79 Point: What Happens (Oops!) We end up across the battlefield from our boss, our mentor, our ally. Conserve your emotional energy. Avoid burnout and do not jeopardize your support. Cut your losses. Recognize that your psychic relief coping mechanism can likely result in damage to you, and You will have no more energy to fight the important battles. Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win. 79

80 Another dysfunction: I Give Up, But I Will Not Let Go! What we do: Get fed up! Get worn out. Do just enough to get by! 80

81 Coping mechanism: Disconnect from work. Grit your teeth, keep on going, but there is no fire. Result: We resign ourselves that we have to do the work, even though we no longer “want to.” Our heart/passion goes out of our work. The job pressures increase. We are even more vulnerable to stress. We catch “the blahs.” 81

82 Point: Stay committed/renew your commitment to your work. Grab a hold on your career again. You cannot afford to stop caring about your work. Life will lose some of its sparkle You will feel more secure about your career. Do not let the stress of change drive a wedge between you and your work. Do not worry about giving your boss more than she or he deserves, the commitment benefits you first. 82

83 Another dysfunction: My Goal: Be the Best Widget Winder There Ever Was! Yup, that’s me. I have always been a widget winder and I just keep getting better! I am a specialist. I am not interested in any new assignments that might reduce my effectiveness as a widget winder! What We Do: We plea or think to ourselves: :Be reasonable, I am sticking with the work I know best! There will be less emotional strain on me, especially with all these @#!* changes going on!” I will just “sit this one out”—I can see what I need to do by watching others playing the game. 83

84 Coping Mechanism: Shy away from new, unfamiliar roles, avoid new routines. BUT – just a delaying tactic. Buying comfort today at tomorrow’s expense. And we are easy targets for replacement. Thinning the herd! On-lookers do not grow/improve quickly enough Remember: The real pressure hits when we enter the game late and we are not in shape or warmed up. 84

85 Point: Start stretching your abilities now, to be ready and in shape tomorrow. Build up your nerve by entering the game, not just before you ease into the game. This is not a spectator sport. Ask for new assignments, broaden your base of experience, prevent stress by updating your skills so you are highly employable 85

86 Another dysfunction: As Soon As I Bring Some Stability to All This, I Will Be Okay. All of this— Ambiguity Uncertainty Confusion Is very confusing to me! I need some closure, for crying out loud! Whatever happened to order and consistency? 86

87 Coping Mechanism: I need to slow all this down! Get a handle on all this! Make it work on my terms. 87

88 But: Instability is here to stay; vagueness is “in.” Pressing for stability is futile. And, if we do get what we want, the world will pass our “stable” organization by. Get over it! 88

89 Point: Learn to actually exploit instability. Learn to improvise, accept constant changes in the game plan. Accept a little more confusion in your life. Be more willing to “wing it.” Your job has to have movable walls! 89

90 Another dysfunction: Why Do We Not Have a More “Caring” Management? Why do people not come first? Why do feelings not matter? We need – Fewer reorganizations, Less downsizing, More stability, Greater job security, Slower pace of change. 90

91 Coping Mechanism: Blame someone else for not taking “care” of us. We are mistreated. Management should lower our stress! Point: By keeping us in our “comfort zone,” management is not helping us at all! Personally, we do not grow. Organizationally, we get killed. “Caring” means doing what works best, getting results, staying in business, providing job opportunities. Management must care about employees and clients and stakeholders. Wake up! High stress and heavy pressure may be evidence of great caring. Survival is not always comfortable. 91

92 Stressors among us (and ourselves) B. F. Skinner: “An animal rewarded for good behavior learns more rapidly and retains what it learns more effectively than an animal punished for bad behavior.” Criticism does not make lasting changes and often incurs resentment. 92

93 Hans Selye: “As much as we thirst for approval, we dread condemnation.” Ben Franklin: “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain—and most fools do.” “A man shows his greatness by the way he treats little men.” Emerson— “I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” 93

94 What are the three stages of change? 1. ________________________ 2. ________________________ 3. ________________________ 94


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