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We have an employee who is easily frustrated when things don’t go as planned. While she’s a great producer, she gets easily rattled if she gets surprised and that puts her off her game. She quickly switches from positive and outgoing to defensive and stubborn. If we can see it, we figure our clients can see it, too. How can we help her get a better grip on how she presents herself?

Thoughts of the day…Every smart employer’s job includes helping employees develop coping skills. Teach her to manage disruption and conflict. Check in if personal issues are getting in the way of making progress at work. Practice useful stress-survival skills.

There are effective ways to deal with challenging situations. Most people learn about them as they progress through their careers. Shorten the learning curve by actively helping employees learn about alternate ways to handle difficult situations.25790630_m

Holding training classes can be very helpful. Take individuals who are struggling and assign them a mentor. Help your employees to see that experiencing tension doesn’t define who they are; how they cope with the situations does.

Here’s a list of survival skills for today’s workplace:

  • Ask yourself if the situation you’re stressing over is really important or just irritating; prioritize attention based on the answer.
  • Self-talk your way through. Affirmations that speak about a positive outcome can cause the brain to head in a more positive direction.
  • Keep notes on situations you find stressful and analyze what led to the stress.
  • Know when to move forward. Forgiving another person is a gift.
  • Give yourself time to ponder on how best to respond.
  • Walk it off — shift the automatic defense response from fight to flight.
  • Build trusted relationships — people you can turn to who will give you good advice, watch your back and encourage you.
  • Learn to ask for help.
  • Give employees opportunity to practice when the risks aren’t so high, so that they perform better when it counts.

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For some employees, stress builds up at home, making it harder to look cool and calm at work. Pretending that everything is under control only adds to the stress. Finding someone to talk to can make a big difference.

As an employer, if your company doesn’t have an EAP (employee assistance program), think about setting one up. It can be a great employee benefit for a nominal cost. EAP’s include counseling, personal development programs, advisory and training services, among others. Give employees a resource that is completely confidential and a source of support in challenging times.

Some amount of stress is normal. It’s a sign that an employee is stretching their limits as they learn new skills. Stress helps trigger adrenaline, which can help them focus and move more quickly. Learn the boundaries: How much stress is helpful, versus when it gets out of hand.

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As stress levels increase, it’s normal to become more controlling, more direct. That may come across as mean-spirited, uncooperative and/or frustrated. As focus turns inward, the employee becomes less aware of how her outward behaviors negatively impact the situation. What’s going on is an internal dialogue about personal needs not being met, which inhibits a person from focusing on the facts of the situation and how best to deal with the other players involved.

There are lots of ways to get a hold of difficult circumstances, all of which you and your employees can practice in a classroom setting. Learn to break off stressful situations, re-engage later, with a new approach. Take a look in the mirror to see what kind of face is being presented to the outside world. Build collaboration by seeking out win-win solutions.

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Try “The Coping Crisis: Discover Why Coping Skills are Required for a Healthy and Fulfilling Life” by Dr. Bill Howatt.