Help Employees Manage Stress

Gayle Lantz

On a business trip years ago, I was flying on a small plane to meet with a client. The weather was stormy and the turbulence was severe. As the plane bounced around in the air, people were screaming, trying to hold on to their seats. Being prone to motion sickness to begin with, I knew I was in trouble.

Noticing my pain, the nice calm man sitting next to me said, "Pretend we're in a boat! We're just going over some big waves. Things will smooth out." While initially thinking this was a silly idea, I quickly imagined myself in a boat wearing a lifejacket and speeding across a lake. It's amazing what your mind can do in a state of panic. Surprisingly, I felt better.

Today's business world is turbulent. The people with whom you work are in states of stress or distress at times. They're looking to you as their leader to help them get through the storm.

Sometimes you'll think, "Why are they making such a big deal out of that?" "Why so dramatic?" (Or melodramatic, as is the case with my 13-year-old daughter.)

Some people will worry and flounder while others will work harder under pressure. When your employees seem overwhelmed, under stress or concerned about their future, clear the tension in the air and put your leadership skills to work.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Shift their perspective. Help them see their situation in a new light. Challenge them by asking, "How could you view the problem or situation differently?"
  • Assure them. Let them know the situation is temporary.
  • Maintain a sense of humor. Even the most difficult situation has a light side if you look for it.
  • Keep the big picture view. Remind them about what's most important in the larger context.
  • Focus on the facts (not fear). People will run wild speculating. They've watched the news, heard the rumors, etc.
  • Confirm next steps. People like to know what to expect. Even if you don't know the long-term plan, confirm short-term action.
  • Talk. People appreciate the opportunity to share what's on their mind. Invite conversation. You don't need to be a therapist...just an interested and approachable leader.

Now, if you are feeling overly stressed, review the points above and do what you need to do to remain calm and focused. People are watching how you respond to challenges or adversity yourself. Don't let stress get the best of you. You've got too much opportunity ahead.

Reprinted from "WorkMatters Tips," a free ezine produced by Gayle Lantz featuring tips for leaders and executives who want to grow themselves, their team and their business. Subscribe at