Stress. It happens when an individual is confronted with an opportunity, constraint or demand related to what he or she desires, and for which the outcome is perceived to be both uncertain and important. Stress at a certain level is good and motivates productivity, but when it increases to the point of pain, it no longer works in favor of an individual or organization. Stress is a very individual experience—some people handle it better than others—but no matter how much stress is “too much,” when it reaches that level the effects on a person’s body and mind can be deadly.
Let’s go back to Susan, whose quality control team doubled when her peer at a plant 250 miles away. She struggled not just with extra work and added direct reports, but with personal issues like finding childcare for overnight trips and down time to attend to her family’s needs. We understand now that Susan could practice some individual stress management techniques, like protecting a certain part of her day for family time regardless of workplace needs, or better time management around tasks that needed to be (or didn’t need to be done).
Susan’s manager could also begin to plan for how he helps her manage stress. He might review job design and the goals Susan and her team has set for themselves. He could take a look at the organization as a whole, identifying bad practices like extensive collaboration or overloading the most talented team members. He might campaign for his organization to add wellness programs or review their benefits packages, perhaps encouraging benefits that directly address childcare and family needs.
Ultimately, though, Susan resigned from her position. The company eliminated her peer’s position in an effort to respond to an economic and industry downturn, and it didn’t appear that her situation would improve any time soon. Her departure contributed to turnover, which is a result of stress that costs organization’s quite a bit of money.
Organizations that are in a position to help employees navigate stress should definitely take those steps. They aren’t being altruistic in doing so. Stress costs organizations productivity and impact profits, and managing it is the right thing to do.