Do you know what the early warning signs of workplace stress are?

Workplace stress: What every leader should know


We’ve all had a bad day at work.

For some though these turn into bad weeks or even months. Workplace stress is unfortunately common, and has nearly become a given in the most demanding fields. Organisational leaders have an obligation to the physical and mental well-being of employees, but it can be tough to figure out when you should step in if you don’t know how the stress manifests itself.

Understanding the symptoms and learning from management courses geared towards supporting staff through them is key to helping all parties involved.

Become familiar with workplace stress warning signs.

Early warning signs

Workplace stress as a whole can have a devastating effect on a human being, and one study from Stanford University even linked it to higher rates of diagnosed illnesses like heart conditions. Some of the major triggers could be out of most people’s control: lack of health insurance, waning job security and family health or finance issues among them.

It’s likely that at some point in your career you noticed a change in one of your staff members. For instance, Jennifer may have been a happy-go-lucky person to work with when she first started, but perhaps you noticed your professional relationship began to drift as time went on. It’s easy to chalk this up to normal human behaviour – who hasn’t fell out of touch with a former friend or co-worker?

To the trained eye though, this could be an early warning sign that someone’s workplace stress is taking a toll on their well-being. Here are a few others, according to HR Zone:

  • Work relationships falling apart;
  • Abnormal behaviour in the workplace, such as excessive conflict;
  • A range of emotions being present, like depression or anger;
  • Declining quality of work or inability to work within teams;
  • Increased number of sick or vacation days being taken;
  • Noticeable change in eating or sleeping schedule.
Take leadership courses to better understand how to help a stressed employee.Stress manifests itself in different ways.

When and how to act

If you’re evaluating these symptoms in an employee, it’s important to understand that sometimes people go through rough patches or show these warning signs without being stressed. Let’s take workplace strife for example.

Don’t confuse regular conflict for being induced by stress.

Team members can sometimes get into arguments with each other over goals or tasks in a project, and learning how to manage this conflict is an important skill for leaders. But this happening once or twice doesn’t necessarily mean the employee is starting to suffer from workplace stress.

One way to monitor these changes over long periods of time is by conducting regular risk assessment reviews, Deakin University reported. It’s also recommended to use a five-part plan in terms of evaluating an employee suffering from severe workplace stress, according to the source. These five are:

  1. Look: Constantly pay attention to warning signs when presented.
  2. Listen: Take input from other staff about the situation.
  3. Think: Review the contributions to stress that are within your control; can you change anything?
  4. Discuss: If you feel comfortable and if the anxiety is related to the workplace, consider speaking with the individual.
  5. Act: Make changes to mitigate the source of stress if possible.

Of course, not every manager is well-versed in talking about such personal matters with their staff. Empathy plays a huge role in successfully helping someone relate their concerns, and ultimately overcome it safely. Consider taking leadership courses to improve your ability to intervene in these situations.

Interested in learning how you can help deal a staff member deal with workplace stress? Contact an ICML representative today to find out which course is right for you.

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