Managing Stress and Anxiety in the American Workplace

  By Dr. Frank Burtnett  |    Monday October 31, 2017

Category: Certification, Columns, Education, Expert Advice

Greater emphasis on public mental wellness in recent times and a growing employee desire for life-work balance has focused attention on the management of stress and anxiety in the American workplace. When work and working conditions fit the emotional expectations of the employee, engagement and satisfaction are typically the result. When employment generates unsatisfactory stress and anxiety, many workforce members express a desire to move on in search of improved conditions. It is here that the search and staffing professional often enters the picture.

A level of stress and anxiety can be consider both normal and expected in many workplaces and in certain occupations. Given that individual differences in dealing with such conditions will result in varied outcomes, a stressful situation for one might be viewed alternatively as an inspirational challenge for another. What drives workers to relocate to a different employment setting or transition to another career endeavor is when the anxiety becomes persistent and excessive.

In some instances the blame for stress and anxiety can be traced to factors like achieving performance goals, inability at problem solving, demanding timetables and schedules and faulty interaction with colleagues and supervisors. When workplace bullying or harassment occurs, angst is often associated with the individual’s inability to stop or correct the discomfort.


How Search and Staffing Professionals Might Help

As search and staffing professionals interact with victims of stress and anxiety, some or all of the following strategies may be appropriate:


Educate yourself regarding the prevalence of stress and anxiety in the workplace generally and how it might be more widespread in the occupational specialty (i.e., meeting sales quotas) you represent.

Educate candidates that a certain amount of stress and anxiety in the workplace is normal, but also caution them to be sensitive to when any difficulty moves from being an issue to a problem.

Help the candidate to understand the derivation of her/his personal stress and anxiety and acknowledges it. Not knowing the provocation for a problem makes it difficult to avoid in the future.

Educate candidates about strategies (i.e., task planning, time management, communication with others, etc.) for addressing demanding situations and taxing work requirements. 

Urge candidates to tackle difficult times head on and attempt to “work through” anything that is overly complicated or difficult. 

Encourage the asking for assistance from managers and supervisors and sharing with trusted colleagues when taxing situations arise. In the case of harassment and bullying, make certain candidates are aware of any legal or policy protections that will help end or relieve their difficulty.

Encourage victims of stress and anxiety to practice healthy behaviors away from the workplace. Many professional mental health counselors and psychologists believe that diet, exercise and sleep adjustments will contribute to how effectively the individual manages these struggles.


The last thing a search and staffing professional wants to do is place a candidate in a different environment where stress and anxiety will appear again. Should you know that an individual is coming out of a stressful or anxiety driven circumstance, use the above strategies as part of the orientation to the new position. Awareness can lead to success and comfort in their chosen career and extend their effectiveness and productivity for the employer.

Note: Watch for Managing Stress and Anxiety - Part 2 in the December edition of The Career Mechanic where additional corrective strategies will be addressed.


Coming in December: Managing Stress and Anxiety in the American Workplace – Part 2



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