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Stress in the Workplace


Workplace stress

There are many things that make the workplace stressful. It might start with your phone ringing all the time, the inbox overflowing, deadlines piling up and customers being demanding. You work long hours and feel undervalued and unappreciated. Sound familiar?

Long working hour, insufficient breaks, lack of resources and unrealistic deadlines, or targets, all contribute to workplace stress. Challenging relationships filled with conflict, bullying and harassment can make matters even worse.

Unfortunately, people miss the early warning signs that all is not well and that they are stressed. General red flags of too much stress are poor performance at work, avoiding family and friends and adopting maladaptive coping strategies. These coping strategies include drinking too much, abusing drugs, inapt affairs and inappropriate gambling habits

Workplace trauma

Entering the world of trauma is like looking into a fractured looking glass: The familiar appears disjointed and disturbed. A strange new world unfolds, revealing astonishing layers of pain carried around by the people you would least suspect to be suffering. (Shapiro 2004)

Trauma can have a severe impact on the workplace. A key component of team relationships that is eroded by post traumatic reaction is trust. Traumatized co-workers  can present relationship problems with security, insensitivity, oversensitivity, esteem and control.

Remember that trauma-induced behaviour is designed to protect traumatized people from additional trauma. This is why it’s so difficult to get traumatized individuals to let go of such behaviour. Because the actions of trauma victims are mostly instinctive rather than conscious and calculated, reprocessing of the trauma cannot generally be approached in a systematic, logical manner. Attempting conscious and logical resolution of a crisis created by unconscious and illogical reactions renders traditional crisis management ineffective. (Berceli 2010)

Work was done with a specific group of  companies in the South African fashion industry who experienced  quite a number of armed robberies. Over a period of ten years it was clear that when employees had a perception that a specific robbery was an “inside job”, it took them longer to recover from the experience. In situations where the police treated the traumatized employees with empathy and respect the recovery process was must less complicated. In situations where the police treated employees poorly and management didn’t address the poor treatment, irreparable damage was done to the workplace relationships.

When a workplace team works through trauma together, their confidence in their ability to resolve problematic issues rise and they acquire a unique feeling of competence. An enhanced sense of competency will reflect favourably in the team’s performance.

A team member who is traumatized tends to need to control, seems less caring about the company’s concerns, shows perfectionist behaviour and isolates from other employees. The drive for perfectionism is a futile exercise leading to more frustration and alienation from colleagues.

Managers often suffer because of vicarious stress. They experience signs and symptoms of vicarious trauma parallel to those of the direct trauma of the employees in their line of responsibility. It is understandable if vicarious and workplace stress amounts to vicarious trauma and burnout when a  regional or area manager have to deal with the aftermath of many armed robberies.

5 Things to alleviate stress:

1. Take regular breaksSalvagente

2. Sleep at least 6-8 hours a day

3. Treat yourself to spa treatments or ozone therapy

4. Eat healthy

5. Keep communication channels open


Do you think we have a lower/higher level of stress in South Africa
compared to the rest of the world?


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