The world of work has changed dramatically over the years due to macro shifts in the way business is conducted as well as micro shifts in terms of structure and process. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), problems at work are more strongly associated with health problems and complaints than any other life stressor – Even more so than financial difficulties and-or family problems. 25% of employees perceive their jobs as being the #1 stressor in their lives – 75% of employees believe that workers now have more on-the-job stresses and demands than they did a generation ago.
These statistics may come as no surprise to any of us in light of the challenges of today’s economy and business climate. It is more important to be extra mindful of self-care and to attend to personal health as stressful job conditions and or lack of coping and self-management skills can lead to increased risk of injury and illness.
Flexibility and adaptation have become requisite skills for professionals to successfully navigate this new work terrain all while maintaining optimal performance. Just as in nature, “Adaptation is key to survival ” – Always. Such requirements can be very challenging for most as change often happens so rapidly that there is not often ample time to understand and integrate.
Rapid – fire change has become the new normal.
The professional who is not as flexible with change or who does not have the behavioral skills to accommodate major shifts is at most risk for negative consequences. We often see professionals who are struggling (often unknowingly) with significant changes in their respective industries and or work processes. Another group we see includes high performing “turn-around” or start-up executives and entrepreneurs who have been operating on over-drive for extended periods of time and hit crisis when there is no longer an outlet for such energies. The stress can pile up and compound over the course of time leading to problems with health and or behavior. Unmanaged energy and behavior can escalate in the form of misplaced attempts at control in and outside of the workplace.
As a Behavior Therapist, I see this repeatedly in my counseling work with professionals (in my offices in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia and West Chester, PA). Stress, fear and rigidity compounds over the course of time leading to confusion and negative consequences.
It is not uncommon for professionals to get into “behavioral ruts” and spiral downward with negative thinking, non-collaborative behavior, impulse control problems with alcohol, food and other self-defeating behaviors. Problems tend to then migrate to relationships with spouses and children – The boundaries become blurred. That’s how most professionals end up in my office. Counseling is often mandated by the spouse in order to stay married.
In order to approach unprofessional behavior in a comprehensive, preventative and solutions focused manner it is critical to understand that accommodating change takes mental, emotional and physical energy.
People have different capacities when it comes to flexibility, skill and energy – Perhaps this is another form of diversity.
Professionals often need help in identifying the issues at hand, understanding them and developing new skills in order to make new choices. Life can get so busy that personal reflection and the possibility of new choices and creativity become less apparent.
In a nutshell, constant change often pulls on less flexible personality traits, taking energy, challenging tolerance and individual capacities. Understanding this behavioral equation and how the pieces come together is necessary to accurately appraise people and situations. This is another conversation which we will have in future blog posts.
Occupational facts to consider about what constitutes a highly stressful job and what may become difficult for professionals as they move through constant change is the topic of the next Living Well Weekly Blog entry.
Tips and tools in the interest of remaining stress hardy in navigating the new occupational landscape will follow.
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