STRESS – Is it GOOD or BAD for Work Environment?

"Stress is not what happens to us. It's our response TO what happens. And RESPONSE is something we can choose". Maureen Killoran
Keeping our teams charged up despite the routine, monotonous job is a challenge most of us as Managers / Leaders are facing today.  However, before getting into details of challenges and mitigation, let us first have a brief overview of what stress is all about and how it works : - 

Stress stimulates brain cells…Stress generally is defined as any stimulus that challenges physiological homeostasis—that is, which alters the balance or equilibrium of the normal physiological state. Stress sets off an alarm in the brain. As shown in the picture*, when the brain perceives stress, the hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) which triggers the release of adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) from the pituitary gland. ACTH travels through the bloodstream and along with signals from the brain sent through the nervous system, stimulates the adrenal glands to release Cortisol, primarily known as stress hormone and epinephrine into the bloodstream. Cortisol and epinephrine help provide energy, oxygen, and stimulation to the heart, the brain, and other muscles and organs to support the body's response to stress which help the body produce emergency energy and support the "fight or flight" response.  

A certain amount of stress helps keep life exciting and challenging and is a healthy and necessary part of life. It releases norepinephrine, one of the principal excitatory neurotransmitters, which is needed to create new memories.  It improves mood, problems feel more like challenges, which encourages creative thinking that stimulates your brain to grow new connections within itself.

We all come across situations when we feel monotonous and are apparently doing same job, following same schedule months after months and at times even for years.  We become so restless that at times we feel that we are stagnating and are at wrong workplace. In such situation, we tend to look upwards to our supervisors so that they can give us something new to work upon or create something which would keep you charged up, however as the jobs cannot be tweaked too dramatically hence the scope remains limited till you change your role or try something entirely different.  But how many of us may get such opportunities? I got to witness in my past creative tension: which could also be referred to as "creative stress" used by many Leaders to drive and deliver optimal results.
This may surprise some of us that how can stress  or tension be creative’.  Imagine a situation when your team is following their regular routine and it’s a normal day for them.  You ask them to spare 1 hour in the evening and present their process USP and scope for improvement individually to the group.  What do you think will happen…… STRESS. Of Course, everyone will be stressed, but for a good cause. 
They will be charged up as they know about the USP of their respective process, they will not only have to showcase their good work but also identify scope of improvement.  And most importantly they will face the pressure of presenting it to group when everyone around would be observing critically and providing inputs.  With just one thought you would have not just spiced them up but also inculcated a spirit of continuous improvement through sharing and feedback. You can think of many such situations where teams can be charged up and even while doing their regular job feel good about it.  You need to be cognizant that not all people can thrive if stress is too often inculcated and some of them may collapse instead.  You need to identify such people and provide continuous support to them to grow and help nurture them in such environments.
I am quite amused to see many professionals who try to create restlessness within teams by allowing loose conversation and b****ing on subjects including but not just limited to happenings, perceptions, peers and team mates.  Some of them may even go as far to harvest false information so that the people keep spending energies in saving their turf or spend time in proving themselves correct.  This is nothing, however, waste of organization time, efforts and energy.  We must understand that such actions can be detrimental as people may use defensive approach to come out of such situations and creativity can go for a toss. It is imperative for the Leadership to ensure that they spend their indefatigable energies in building a culture which is conducive to thrive and help create right environment which enable an ecosystem where meritocracy, productivity, collaboration, employee growth, growth from within and organization capability building remains at the forefront of leadership mindset.

*source : Studies Link Stress and Drug Addiction By Steven Stocker.

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