Nobody wants to die of a heart attack at their desk because their job is killing them. And most everyone knows that chronic stress has a long hit list of negative health effects: high blood pressure, clogged arteries, getting fat, and a predisposition for anxiety, depression, and addiction.
“A lot of time, you hear stories of people who run at a certain stress level just burning out, or having a stress-related health crisis,” says Robin Camarote, an organizational development consultant. “You want to do some preventive maintenance so you can increase the longevity of your career, and your effectiveness.”
Being stressed out also just makes you look bad, says Brian Braudis, CEO of the Braudis Group, a leadership consulting firm. “Stress makes you look inept,” he says. “It hides your mastery. You look unprofessional.” Chronic stress also makes people behave in ways that aren’t true to themselves. “Chronic stress masks who we are,” Braudis says. “The stress speaks for us.”
Along with misrepresenting yourself, being stressed out can affect how managers and others perceive your performance and motivations. Braudis says he has been brought in to evaluate team member dynamics that are dysfunctional due to temperament. “Great employees, but bringing themselves into question through their behavior,” he says. “And it came down to managing stress, and getting a hold of what is getting a hold of you. If you’re not managing stress, then it’s managing you. That’s not a place you want to be.”
Because humans are highly adaptive and resilient, we tend to mold to our situations. It can get hard to see when stress levels have become a problem without obvious signs like chest pain or sleepless nights. “We get used to the way we are,” says Crabtree. “If we’re always on edge and stressed out, then we don’t feel normal if we’re not on edge and stressed out.”
One red flag to keep an eye out for, and a tough one for facility managers, is being unable to go on vacation. “If you can not go on a vacation and relax, that’s a sign that your brain is rewiring and almost needing that stress that you’re used to,” says Crabtree. Other red flags he points to are forgetfulness and struggling to focus.
In the team, it might be a little bit harder to spot a build up of stress, until something dramatic happens, like someone walks off the job — or smashes a phone to bits, as one survey respondent admitted doing. However, 67 percent of facility managers do report actively monitoring their team for job-related stress. Signs they said they looked for to gauge their team’s stress levels included attitude/body language, performance/output, absenteeism/illness, and direct feedback.
Camarote suggests keeping an eye out for team members who shut down, avoid interaction, or avoid engagement. “If people start disappearing, that’s a red flag,” she says. “People are either finding ways to avoid you, avoid work, or just disconnect because they’re struggling.” In addition to physically hiding out, another symptom might be emotionally checking out. Avoiding eye contact or not engaging in meetings could also be signs to watch.
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