Resist the bait. When stress-mongers burst into your office and start fretting, they may expect you to act the same way. Don’t. Play it cool.
“When my sales manager bites his nails and worries about a lost account, I pretend I’m a Zen master,” says a VP at a shipping firm. “I go out of my way to act the opposite. That shows I won’t let him faze me. And it makes him slow down.”
However, don’t blow off worriers and make them even more frenetic. Validate their concerns. Example: “I know you’re agitated about higher shipping rates, but let’s look at this from a global perspective. Either we find someone who will ship for less, we come up with a new distribution system or we accept higher rates as the cost of doing business.”
Review priorities. Some high-wire employees take on too much work needlessly and adopt a siege mentality. They may pant or talk nonstop as they scurry from task to task.
Don’t laugh off their behavior. Instead, ask them to write down their top five priorities while you list them on a separate sheet. Then compare notes to help them see what matters most. Ask them to skip low-priority duties until they’ve completed critical ones.
Play the deadlines-derailment game. Coach perpetually stressed employees to start projects early. Set a reasonable timetable. Then monitor whether they stick to the schedule.
Those who fall behind might claim an “emergency” derailed them. Have them examine whether the interruption justified missing the deadline. The more interest you show in each alleged derailment, the more they’ll start resisting distractions.
Turn down the noise. A raucous workplace can raise stress. Reduce loud sounds such as speakerphone conversations or shouting across the office. Ask a stressed staffer for ideas on how to create a quieter environment.
Level with them. While you can’t flip off a “stress switch,” you can alert ‘stress puppies’ to how their actions make co-workers anxious or distracted.