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Managing stress and debunking the myths

Stress researcher and author Malene Friis Andersen, PhD, gave a seminar at the Confederation of Danish Industry’s Working Environment Conference last week about how managers can optimally deal with stress. Read her best tips - and learn the truth behind myths about stress here.
Strong social support is the greatest buffer against stress: Solidarity, the feeling of belonging and being part of a team and not alone, explains stress researcher Malene Friis Andersen from the Danish National Research Centre for the Working Environment.

Publiceret: 15.03.2017
Af Karen Witt Olsen mail

Researcher at the National Research Centre for the Working Environment Malene Friis Andersen presented the seminar “Stress from a managerial perspective” at DI’s Working Environment Conference in Odense.

She is also the author behind the book Stop Stress - Handbook for Managers, written together with Marie Kingston. Here, she shares her best tips:

Tips for managers
1. Take the managerial task upon yourself: Create an environment in which stress is not overstated or played down and act as quickly as possible if signs of stress arise. You might e.g. consult the stress curve.

2. Be attentive and available in your relation to your employees. Make rounds, ask what you can help with, remember that you are the culture bearer - if employees aren’t expected to answer emails in the evening, don’t send them. Legitimise breaks.

3. Communicate clearly about the quality and quantity you expect. Work today is limitless. Set limits.

4. Know that strong social support is the greatest buffer against stress: Solidarity, the feeling of belonging and being part of a team and not alone.

5. Distinguish clearly - also verbally - between stress and being busy.

6. Request knowledge and a framework from above and speak to manager colleagues and your own manager.

The many myths

The myths about stress abound. We’ve asked stress researcher Malene Friis Andersen to reply to some of the most common:

The employee should have said no
“The more affected by stress a person is, the more difficult it is to say no. Someone who is afflicted by stress cannot distinguish between what is important and unimportant. The competences that help prevent stress are the first to go when stress symptoms increase.
 
It’s due to private life
“In the population surveys that the National Research Centre for the Working Environment has carried out among working Danes, 94 per cent of those afflicted by stress say that work has been a contributing factor to their stress.”
 
A course in robustness will solve it
“No. Stress is not solved by teaching the employee to see themselves and their work in a different way.”
 
Some personality types are afflicted more often
“We know that is often connected to e.g. work addiction and perfectionism, but we’re lacking research that demonstrates what comes first. One could therefore just as well assume that a high level of stress can increase perfectionism.
 
The sooner the return to work, the quicker the recovery
“The question of when is right to go back to work is individual. The right time also depends on what the employee will be doing when they return to the workplace. It’s important that the manager and the sick-listed individual stay in contact and identify clearly defined tasks that are good to start up with.”
 
It’s the boss’s fault
“The manager has a central role in relation to preventing and handling stress, but they are not stress saviours. The manager can only succeed if the top management ensures that there is a proper framework and knowledge about stress.  For example, it’s important to look at whether the organisation promotes managers based on their ability to create well-being among employees or solely on the basis of productivity.
 
Managers don’t get stressed
“That’s a big myth. Managers think they’re different from the rest and feel that they must be able to withstand the pressure. Otherwise, they would have been wrongly recruited. There’s an increasing prevalence of stress among middle managers, and many managers view being sick-listed due to stress as a major failure and therefore have a hard time returning to work.

The manager has a central role in relation to preventing and handling stress, but they are not stress saviours.

RESEARCHER AT THE NATIONAL RESEARCH CENTRE FOR THE WORKING ENVIRONMENT MALENE FRIIS ANDERSEN
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PUBLISHED: 3/15/2017 LAST MODIFIED: 3/15/2017