by Sylvia Lafair

How to Manage a Stressed Staff

May 11, 20092 mins

Tips for handling work conflicts triggered by job loss fears


My staff is stressed about job security, so work conflicts are intensified. How can I handle this?

Coach: Sylvia Lafair, author, Don’t Bring It To Work: Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success and president, Creative Energy Options

  • Always: Be aware that when stress escalates and we feel under pressure to perform, the most ancient fight or flight part of our brain (the amygdala) kicks in. Our mission becomes survival and to achieve that, we either instinctively run away from the threat or move to save someone from it. At work this shows up in subtle ways: unanswered calls, slights masquerading as jokes, sharp tonality, blaming, ignoring or protecting others.
  • Your task as a manager is to learn the warning signs that old survival patterns have taken over. Look for destructive behavior that is repetitive. For example, the drama queen is always gossiping; the martyr is first in, last out, complaining every step of the way; the superachiever is always doing a “one-ups” about what they’re doing in the office; the avoider won’t stay around long enough to help solve a problem.

  • Sometimes: A good tactic to try is to give your employees time to talk about their economic fears. When there is room to talk about concerns and express ourselves honestly with our work colleagues, there is a healthy capacity to “say it, see it and let it go.” Then productive work can be accomplished.
  • Never: Create an environment where survival patterns can fester and grow. Don’t encourage a “stiff upper lip” culture where employees smile, seethe and won’t talk. Shutting down the primal parts of our nervous systems eventually causes the emotional pot to boil over into angry conflicts. Finally, never participate in the “see-all-tell-all” workplace where emotions flow freely yet no real work gets done because gossip and rumors stall productivity.