Your Staff Needs You

staff stress stress management

How we perceive ourselves vs our impact on others… especially when under pressure, tension, stress, and fatigue.


One of the most jarring pieces of feedback I received early in my career was that I was unapproachable. I know right?! Absurd. I am the nicest person I know. The people I was working with didn’t see me in the same light. Especially when I am under pressure or sleep-deprived, and I now know that RBF is what makes others not feel they can come to me.


Unfortunately, it takes a great leader or a trusted friend to speak the truth in this way to us. And as we know, being able to evaluate ourselves is nearly impossible. Yet, we know that our behavior and feelings have a ripple effect on our staff. So how are we going to be able to know when our staff is stressed this holiday season?


We do have to start with understanding ourselves. Begin by identifying how you perceive yourself. Are you enthusiastic, outgoing, and persuasive, or are you more pioneering, assertive, and confident? Maybe you are thoughtful, good-natured, and a good listener, or you believe you are precise, thorough, and diplomatic.


Whatever you believe, you have a baseline of your perception of self. Now get a trusted friend and ask them what you are like when you are under pressure or tired. If you believe you are thorough, you might hear you are more of a perfectionist or picky under stress. 


Have this person give you specific examples of this behavior. For instance, I believe that I am assertive, but under pressure, this comes off as abrasive. Abrasive, for me, looks like short communication. I am not smiling and generally look like I am not in the conversation (because I am probably not). 


Is this who I want to be? No, I want to be assertive! I want to show a confident personality. I want people to know they can trust me. I certainly do not want to be abrasive. Now that I know what it looks like, I want to catch myself in the abrasive behaviors. 


So how do we even begin to understand when this is happening so that we can make a different choice?  

  • Understand what creates the specific stress. Write it out. 
  • Become familiar with who you want to be. If your goal is to be assertive and confident, what does that look like?
  • Know what these feel like in your body. What does assertiveness feel like? Are your shoulders rolled back? What are your facial expressions? What about your tone of voice? How do you carry yourself differently?
  • Who do you know that is an example of both assertiveness and confidence? What are the behaviors they show you? Write those out.
  • Now that you have the data, it is time to put yourself into practice.
  • The next time you feel pressure or stress, let this be your sign to become more intentional about your desire to remain assertive and confident.  
  • Go to your list and read the attributes and behaviors you want to show.  
  • If being more confident looks like your shoulders are rolled back, lift your shoulders to your ears and roll them down to remind your brain that this is your new way of responding. This action makes you proactive and in control of your responses versus reactive and uncontrolled.


Once I can identify this, it becomes easier to identify stress, pressure, and fatigue in myself. In turn, this makes it easier to identify these tendencies in our staff. 


For a helpful exercise you can do with your staff, read last week's blog here. This exercise will help your staff identify behaviors just as you identify yours. 


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