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Support: Dealing with Stress in the Workplace

Recruitment and Retention Toolkit   Dealing with Stress in the Workplace 2.10.0   The Impact of Stress on Retention: The Stress Factor

The Impact of Stress on Retention: The Stress Factor

Quick Take on Stressed Employees [1]

  1. The ability to tolerate stress depends on many personal factors, including the quality of relationships, general outlook on life, emotional intelligence, and genetics.
  2. Stress has a negative affect on attitude and outlook, and affects the mind, body and behavior in many ways.
  3. Chronic stress disrupts every system in the body, making people vulnerable to illnesses, increasing sick days and decreasing work quality.
  4. The more isolation or lack of perceived support, the greater the susceptibility to stress.
  5. Stressed workers tend to feel like things are out of their control.
  6. The inability to self-soothe increases the vulnerability to be chronically stressed.
Frustration levels have traditionally been linked to stress levels. Stress is usually caused when the demands of life exceed the resources available, such as time, money, and skills. It is well documented that stress can kill or damage us physically, but it is also a psychological threat. It erodes good judgment and impulse control, along with other negative effects on work and personal life.  (See Introduction to the Frustrated Employee [] for more information on frustrated employees.)
Burnout is a form of chronic strain that develops over time in response to prolonged periods of high stress. A 2009 study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council in England, “Anxiety, Attention and Cognitive Performance” found that anxiety and stress reduces your ability to block out distractions [2]. In addition, the study showed that anxious individuals often perform at a comparable level to non-anxious ones but only do so at a greater cost in terms of effort or perhaps long term stress. (See Burnout [2.10.3.a] for more information.)
Compassion fatigue is rampant in the behavioral health workforce. The American Psychological Association’s Stress in America 2007 survey confirmed that work is the leading cause of stress. Research shows that when the balance between work and life stress is off (during crunch times or when dealing with heavy caseloads) any employee can reach the limit of his or her endurance. (See Compassion Fatigue [2.10.3.b] for more information.)
With so many reasons to be stressed, how does any work get completed? Employee engagement and motivation does somehow survive, and research shows that this is usually tied directly to the issue of control. But if employees are to have more control, managers must relinquish it.

Taskforce on Counselor Wellness and Impairment The American Counseling Association’s Taskforce on Counselor Wellness and Impairment has three broad avenues for addressing the needs of impaired counselors: education of all counselors to prevent impairment, securing quality resources, intervention and treatment for impaired counselors, and advocacy within ACA and at the state and national levels to address the broader issues surrounding impairment as well as the specific needs of those who are impaired. More information on the Taskforce on Counselor Wellness and Impairment is found here

SAMHSA’s Preventing and Managing Stress provides tips to help disaster response workers prevent and manage stress. Includes strategies to help responders prepare for their assignment, use stress-reducing precautions during the assignment, and manage stress in the recovery phase of the assignment.

Tips for Managing and Preventing Stress article available in the SAMHSA store outlines strategies to prevention and management stress in two critical contexts: the organization and the individual.

A Guide to Managing Stress in Crisis Response Professions is an easy-to-use pocket guide that focuses on general principles of stress management and offers simple, practical strategies that can be incorporated into the daily routine of managers and workers. It also provides a concise orientation to the signs and symptoms of stress.

Wellness Strategies addresses emotional and general health, nutrition and diet, smoking and tobacco use cessation, and stress management.

[1] Smith, M, Jaffe-Gill, E, & Segal, J. (2009, July). Understanding stress: signs, symptoms, cause and effect. Retrieved on August 25, 2010 from
[2] ESRC Society Today (2009, June 23). Anxiety's Hidden Cost. Retrieved n September 16, 2009 from

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