It seems unavoidable: business executives and professionals face stress and demands as part of their daily duties. Two of the state’s college professors of management have a few suggestions for busy leaders of companies as well as those who are aspiring to move up corporate ladders.
Mark N. Bing, Ph.D., an assistant professor of management at the University of Mississippi, advises students and business people to recognize that jobs are going to be stressful and that there are many possible sources of stress.
“That includes people such as supervisors, co-workers and customers or clients; the work itself; the organization structure; compensation; and, the work environment,” he said. “Employees have to learn to ignore the smaller, less important stressors, and to distinguish those from work issues that really need to be attended to.”
He suggests coping mechanisms such as exercise routines, hobbies, family, pets and meditation with emphasis on recognizing when the stress is becoming overwhelming before it gets out of hand.
A professor of management at Mississippi College, Randall Robbins, Ph.D., says stress management is discussed in his undergraduate class, “Principles of Management,” and in his graduate class, “Organizational Behavior.”
He has been a management professor for 27 years and offers these tips, “I try to get my students to follow a ‘small wins’ strategy. By ‘small win’ I mean a small but definite change made in the desired direction. Although each small change may appear modest, the multiple small gains eventually add up and create substantial movement toward the desired goal.”
Stress and strain
In his classes, Bing covers the topic of psychological resilience to workplace stressors needed in certain occupations. “A really hot topic area for psychological research is occupational health, of which stress and strain are very common,” he said. “Very often, due to downsizings, employees these days are constantly being asked to do more with less, which often leads to work overload (both too much work and mentally taxing work), which leads to subsequent stress.
“Stress in turn can manifest physically as strain, at which point we have to start worrying about the employees’ health. Also, work stress can spill over into employees’ personal lives.”
Professor Bing thinks business demands are becoming more stringent with today’s global economy. “Employees are worried about losing their jobs overseas, and many will work harder and focus more on staying current so they can hold on to their jobs,” he said.
“This overload can lead to stress, along with the anxiety about one’s future. Add to this the fact that with a global economy, many employees are no longer doing the 9-to-5 job, but must be available at all hours because a client in China or India might need assistance. To paraphrase an old saying, the sun never sets on the global economy.”
Learning a skill
The cyber psychologist, Robert F. Sarmiento, says everyone experiences stress from time to time and it’s normal. Pressure is what is happening to us and stress is how we react to those pressures. Fortunately, stress management is largely a learnable skill.
“Learn how to turn off the alarm system through various relaxation methods,” he said. “Relaxation methods work on the idea that you can’t be relaxed and uptight at the same time. Basically, anything you do that is the opposite of what the danger alarm system does will tend to shut if off.”
His suggestions for relaxation include deep breathing, muscular relaxation and visualization. Deep breathing — taking deep, slow breaths rather than the shallow, fast breathing we feel when we are stressed.
Muscular relaxation — tensing and relaxing various muscle groups can work wonders. Try your neck and shoulders, your shoulder blades, your forehead and eyes, tensing these groups for a few seconds, and then relaxing them. This technique can be combined with deep breathing by inhaling while you tense, then exhaling when you relax the muscles.
Visualization — imagine a very peaceful scene such as lying on a beach, being out in a fishing boat on a lake or in a mountain cabin. It can be a real place or an imagined one.
“Try all these methods and see which works better for you,” Sarmiento writes. “All these can be learned quite readily and often work very well.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at firstname.lastname@example.org.