Identifying risk factors and difficulties that can lead to problems in professional careers is important. Prevention always saves time, energy and resources. Being able to identify behavior changes in one’s self, staff, and colleagues helps prevent more serious problems from developing in the future, which can leave individuals, consumers and organizations vulnerable to risk and liability.
There are many factors that contribute to work stress. Some are adjustable and some not. However, problems don’t generally, “go-away” or change without intervention.
When feeling stressed and worn down, it can be confusing as to why. It is always important to step back and look at what might be going on a daily basis to identify contributing factors. Tracking health habits, food, exercise and sleep, recreation, etc., for a short period can be helpful to be able to see what may be impacting stress levels, behavior and overall health.
Changing the perception of stressors and releasing the need for control or reevaluating expectations of one’s self can also be helpful. This is a cognitive- behavioral skill which can make a big difference in perceiving an issue and dealing with it more constructively giving the person back control.
Looking at habits and mindset is a way of taking care of the internal conditions impacting health, well-being and behavior.
The outside environment, meaning the conditions under which we operate and function is of critical importance – People, physical space, processes, demands/ requirements, etc. We are deeply affected by the environmental conditions whether or not we are aware of it – They impact our thinking, emotions and behavior as we are wired to naturally adapt to meet environmental demands.
When outer conditions overwhelm a person’s ability to sustain the demands of the environment over a period of time, there is likely to be a crisis.
Professionals are usually smart, goal oriented, and skilled people and tend to push themselves. They may be more vulnerable to over-functioning and feeling highly responsible in the work they do. This can put them at additional risk for stress and burnout potentially leading to health and behavioral problems as their ability to self- manage becomes more difficult.
Personal control is important for human beings to feel stable, focused and safe.
Less flexible personal traits and behavioral tendencies in combination with challenging workplace conditions can give rise to the development of misconduct and unprofessional behavior.
Over many years of counseling professionals dealing with occupational conflicts, behavioral challenges and impairments our clients have voiced some common workplace difficulties which have been tough for them to manage over the long term. However, with some willingness on part of the professional and his or her employer, concerns can be addressed and in many cases improvements can be made in the benefit of both parties. Much of the time improvements may include the fine-tuning of communication, revisiting expectations, guidelines and other accommodations without too much disturbance to work processes. The importance of boundaries is highlighted.
Something else we have learned is that many professionals have a hard time saying “no.”
This can be especially true of people in human service oriented roles, including healthcare, law and areas of consulting, where there is a focus on being helpful to others. Setting limits and boundaries becomes paramount in making healthy changes.
Professionals have also achieved their success through working hard and can be competitive (often self-competitive). It takes commitment to excellence to get to the top. After years of diligence and drive it can often be hard for professionals to establish the balance needed to maintain their health, energy and positive mindset. You can see how the inner and outer conditions start to inter-weave and make for difficulties as tension grows.
Neither the employer nor the professional employee is wrong or at fault. Macro and micro changes shape situations over time. Changes can go unnoticed until crisis hits and there is an incident of sorts.
At the end of the day, everyone is just trying to move forward in the best way possible.
In working with professionals the effort to resolve problem issues, we have noted some themes concerning what they have found difficult in their respective work environments.
- Lack of communication between professional and his or her direct report.
- Responsibility without authority.
- Lack of control or input over pace of work.
- Frequent distractions (including too many meetings) – Not being able to finish work.
- Excessive workload demands – Never being able to be “caught up.”
- Ongoing difficulty with work – life balance.
- Combination of high-demands and decreased rewards.
- Unrealistic work expectations-Especially in light of a change in work processes.
- Inequitable work environments- Including oversight of a team member’s under-performance or misconduct.
- Rusting out – Low workload, lack of challenge or opportunities for growth, lack of intellectual engagement (opposite of “excessive”) – Underemployment.
- Negative mindset from “spinning one’s wheels” and lack of support and above noted issues.
Technology can be stressful, too. The expectation of immediate access of 24/7 devices can take its’ toll on the personal boundaries needed to be effective. Being constantly “plugged – in” can be like always being on alert and “on call” with little to no opportunity for release.
The bottom line is that most professionals need increased awareness and skills to be effective in today’s work world. Change is constant and rapid fire. Professionals need to reflect and reconsider how to navigate the new work landscape and to perhaps make new choices.
A thorough assessment of all the dimensions of functioning can help in planning for improvement.
At Integrated Treatment Solutions we help professionals focus on getting back to the basics of self –care, including moving away from over-functioning and operating out of fear. We help professionals form a structured routine supporting their needs and performance requirements, along with training on skills to self- manage in order to navigate the work setting more effectively.
Self- management skills help professionals advocate for themselves, their teams and to collaborate with other colleagues in their organizations’ more effectively. They also help with coping with emotions and stress.
The ultimate goal is to provide greater awareness, confidence, balance and personal control in work and life.