Sunday, July 31, 2016

Managing Work Stress

Hello blog readers.
Today I want to provide a few tips for dealing with stress at work.

Work related stress could have some bad outcomes.
Stress is an inevitable part of work life, but there are ways we can manage stress.
Sometimes workplace stress is so bad that it really does require a job change or something major; however, other times, workers can be taught to take a few different approaches to reduce their stress.

Here are three tips, or the ABC's for dealing with work stress:

A - Avoid a stressor.  
If a coworker is grating on you or there is a noisy AC fan blowing over your desk - ask to be relocated.  Negotiate a little bit if you need space or small changes. Be very careful in how you speak up because not all small complaints are easily received - so strategize how you can set up your workday to avoid or reduce certain exposures.

B- Break things down and manage the stressor.  
Workers need to spend some time assessing details about the stressor.
This could involve making a chart, writing about it, asking a mentor to discuss it, or searching online for information about it. The assessment phase is then followed by coming up with small ways to manage the current stressor.  For example, some workers can add some enjoyable to a stressful task.  One employee had a boss that was curt and tough to work with.  When they started meeting at a favorite restaurant for monthly check-ins, the atmosphere and food added something nice to the experience for the employee. This little addition helped the employee have a better attitude and the approach to meeting was enhanced.  Further, the employee also realized the immaturity of the manager and set up some ground rules on how much they would personally allow with sloppy behavior - and basically had a mentality of grace for someone in an elevated position who had some character issues.

Another way to break things down with work stress is to balance the stressor by finding personal ways to relieve the impact of the stress.  You can give yourself a reward once the stress fun task is completed, you can go for a run or do a workout before the stressful situation, or you can come up with creative ways to bring some joy into the situation. For example, one employee has to sit through a business meeting that included a manager who had a harsh approach to running meetings.  The employee was not the recipient of any berating, but the tone used was a stressor for this worker. To combat the annoyance experienced during this meeting time, the employee made uplifting notes on their electronic device.  The notes included quotes, comics, and images or people they were inspired by.  During the meeting, the worker would focus on the note and it would help diffuse some of the stress that was felt.  We can impact how much stress is received in our minds - and so I encourage you to find little strategies that work for you.

C. Confront the stressor. 

Confronting stress is something more people need to learn how to do.  Many times we are taking the stress too personal and so confronting it does not feel "doable" and we avoid it.
 Other times, the default stance is to avoid stressors and let them build up.  Sometimes this default mode occurs because we are not really sure what is happening. Sometimes what occurs in "real time" takes a while to process and adjust to - which means that one of the reasons we postpone or delay is not from slacking - but from still processing.  So give yourself some grace if you are wrapping your head around a situation.  Give yourself some grace if you are processing and chewing on an issue.  However, don't stay in that mode - and don't stay passive when there are things that can be done to make your work life a little better.  For example, one worker did not realize that a desk location was a source of stress.  Their desk, a small cubicle, was near the entrance and people always walked by and brushed the chair or seemed to be seeing their work.  While it was a promotion to even have a coveted cubicle (you know, it was a job that had a lot of contract workers and very few salaried positions with cubicles). Once the employee assessed and realized their cubicle was an issue, this worker found a colleague who would switch desks.  The proper procedures were followed and the helpful manager said something like, "I get this move, it reminds me of airplane seats, some people prefer the window and others prefer the aisle."

So you see - to confront the stress issue we need to understand it better and then we need to not take it so personal. It might help to practice detaching from the personal connection to the stressor, which I know is easier said then done, but sometimes assessing and breaking the stressor down allows you to take it less personal. The comfort level goes up as you really process the stress.  Try it and see....


Q: Why did Dr. Prior share these ABC's for dealing with work stress?

A:  I shared stress tips because stressors are an inevitable part of life, but there are ways we can manage them.

The work motivation application:

If you have a stress related issues (in work or home life) that you are working through, I invite you to see how your current situation fits into the aforementioned ABC's:

Can you Avoid the stressor?
Can you Break the stressor down to manage and mediate it?
Can you Confront the stressor to bring about a needed Change?


If you still feel like reading, here are a few more tidbits from the Industrial and Organizational (I-O) perspective.

~ Work stress can be defined as the worker's response to stimuli that leads to negative physical or mental consequences.
~ Research around work stress tends to focus on antecedents, manifestations, and consequences of stress, but current research is addressing "preventative" and "intervention" initiatives.
~ Occupational Health is the area of I-O that looks at work and family issues and it explores stressors that interact with work success and mental health.
~ Work related stress costs organizations billions of dollars each year and the topic is complex because stressors range from individual characteristics of workers to organizational issues to broad scale market components.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Gen Z: The "Posters"

Hello Readers,

I was just reading about how Gen Z, or the newest Generation of people born between 2000 to 2015, are called the "poster generation" (I will try to come back later to share the link) and the writer argued that the name "POSTER" should apply because this generation is post so many big events - post 9/11, post Iraq war, etc.
Also, most individuals from this cohort have grown up "posting" - you know, posting online throughout their days (they were raised with this) as they post to their social media outlets, assignments in school forums, etc.

Well I am not sure if the name will stick, but I am referring to them as Gen Z. 

There are no clear cut off dates for generational cohorts, which only adds to the existing ambiguities, and some would say that Generation Z actually starts in the late 1990's. I am currently finishing up a research project on the youngest workers born in the late 1990s, those born from 1995 to 1999. Some folks refer to this group of workers as older Gen Z, but I am using Gen Y, or as Twenge (2010) described them as those born approximately from 1980 to 1999. 


Right now, I consider those born in the late 1990s to be the youngest of Generation Y,  and I consider Generation Z, or the Posters, as those born 2000 to 2015. 

Anyhow, if you are interested in reading more about generations at work - check out Sean Lyons book, Managing the New Workforce here and his student research page is here


Twenge, J. M. (2010). A review of the empirical evidence on generational differences in work attitudes. Journal of Business and Psychology25(2), 201-210 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Industrial & Organizational Psychology FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about Industrial & Organizational (I-O) Psychology. 

Question (Q): What is Industrial & Organizational (I-O) Psychology?

Answer (A):  Psychology is referred to as the scientific study of behavior and thinking.  Industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology is the scientific study of behavior in the area of work (business and industry). 

Extended answer: 
"I-O psychology is the scientific study of working and the application of that science to workplace issues facing individuals, teams, and organizations. The scientific method is applied to investigate issues of critical relevance to individuals, businesses, and society" (SIOP, 2016).  

Q: What are the subfields of I & O Psychology? 

A: There are six subfields of I & O Psychology: Selection and Placement, Training, Organizational Development, Work-life Quality, and Ergonomics (Muchinsky, 2012). 

Q: Where does I-O fit in with the American Psychological Association (APA)?

A: I-O psychology is represented by Division 14 of the APA, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP).

Q: What is one word at the core of I-O Psychology?

A: Change. 
The world of work is ever changing and I-O psychologists have been examining the world of work since 1892.  The Great Depression in the 1930's and both World Wars had different challenges for workers and it was during those periods when I-O Psychology gained momentum (Katzell & Austin, 1992). The 1950s and 1960s had a lull (Highouse, 1999), but as the mental health of workers and the work-family balance have become key topics, I-O Psychology has surfaced as a powerful branch of Psychology helping workers to effectively deal with an ever-changing workplace.

Q: How can I find out more about the history of I-O?

A: SIOP has an I-O Virtual History Museum.

Q: What do I-O Psychologists do?

A:  Industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologists are concerned with work behavior and how research can help improve work life and solve everyday work related problems.  There is a mix of science and practice with I-O and the subfields are listed in question #3. I-O psychologists can do many jobs: career coach, researcher, teacher/professor, consultant, strategist, human resource specialist, etc. 

more Q & As will be added as needed, please feel free to check back. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Why We Work

Why do we work?

If your first answer was that we work for money.... you are not alone because this is usually the first reply. 

Of course we work for money, but the value of work goes far beyond the dollar. 

Not all of us toil the same and not of us view the meaning behind work the same. 

I-O Psychologists examine work from four general viewpoints: economic, religious, psychological, and philosophical. 
 The areas that underpin work meaning are not always equal, but for this introduction, let's look at them as four basic sections:

Quick story: 

I once heard a story about a counselor who worked with a very wealthy lady from Orange County California.  The woman was personally miserable - and after physical issues were ruled out, this counselor determined that she needed to hold a job for six months.  
She could not volunteer.  
She could not work at one of the places she owned. 
She had to get a real job and work under a real boss. 

After six months, the lady was a totally different women. I do not have all of the details and it was shared quite a while ago, but the point expressed was that sometimes as humans we have angst and unrest because maybe we are not challenged enough. Quite possibly if we, as humans, are not under authority in a way that allows us to be humbled and grow, we can get so full of ourselves to where we have complete unrest. 

Okay, so let's look at the meaning behind work from the economic, religious, psychological, and philosophical viewpoints. 

Economic views of work highlight that we work in order to attain financial resources and to enjoy a life with material resources. Taylor's classic view (scientific management here), which argued that employees were motivated solely by money and so he promoted the idea of "a fair day's pay for a fair day's work."  This view offered some efficient ways to produce, but it was anemic as it failed to account for the soul, or culture, within a job and ignored teamwork, mental involvement, and an enjoyable work atmosphere. Employees do offer an exchange of services for pay, but money also serves to diminish dissatisfaction because without enough of it, people cannot provide for basic needs. 

Religious views of work sometimes posit that people with too much unstructured time will stray and wander in a way that fosters unhealthy impulses (too much idea time).  Some religious views suggest that work is a punishment from the Fall in Genesis. 
Religious views of meaningful work also posit that God as Creator designed each person to work in a way that allows them to feel fulfilled while using talents to serve and bless others - and bring glory to God. Many religious folks refer to some jobs as a calling that has been Divinely appointed for their lives.

The psychological view behind the meaning of work suggests that work itself can help a person develop their identity, personal accomplishment, and other personal satisfactions. Needs can be met from working with customers and colleagues and the union provided from work can fulfill. In addition, the structure and rhythm of a work schedule (or other duties) can enhance a person's life. The many different types of rewards that go beyond money are often targeted at meeting psychological needs. 

The philosophical view behind the meaning of work interplays with the mission found in the religious aims; however, a philosophical explanation of work suggests that workers derive meaning from their jobs.... it is good for a human being to create and tackle tasks - to use their mind and to provide for others. 

I suggest that we work for many reasons.  
I also suggest that our needs for and from work will change as we age, mature, and experience different things in life. 

Q: Why did Dr. Prior share the the economic, religious, psychological, and philosophical viewpoints of why people work?

A:  I shared the views because people need to learn that our reasons for working change as we change. 

The work motivation application:
The more we understand "why" we do what we do, the better we can stay in tune with what we need from work and the better we can understand about what motivates. Not all of us toil the same and not of us view the meaning behind work the same. 

Aristotle said, “we work to have leisure, on which happiness depends.”

The author of Ecclesiastes declared that "there's nothing better for people to do than to enjoy their work because that is their lot [in life]" (here). 

What about you?  How do you view the reasons for work? 

Have a great day and thanks for reading.