Decision Making For Dummies
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Demands and expectations — and how those things are communicated — affect everyone in a company: clients, customers, coworkers, employees, and so on. In very tense settings, the pressure and ensuing stress can put people at risk, both emotionally and physically. When you notice that working relationships aren’t heading in a positive direction, take action to reduce the pressure by lightening things up.

Lightening things up isn’t the same as making light of the situation. Lightening things up always has a purpose. Here are a few things you can do to lighten up a stressful situation (note that doing these things proactively — that is, before stress gets too high — is even better):

  • Insert fun into the day-to-day workflow. When you add fun to the equation, you gain detachment and the capacity to approach the situation from a totally different direction. Enjoying going to work is one aspect of incorporating fun into work; the other is injecting an appropriate dose of humor into tense situations to diffuse the tension (make sure the humor is at no one’s expense).

    Comedy can turn a tough, boring, or stress-filled situation into a rejuvenating experience. But it works only if it doesn’t target a person and includes everyone in the joke. A Southwest Airlines stewardess shows how it’s done in this video.

  • Take a break and get away from the workplace. Doing so can quiet the mental noise and put you in a calmer state.

    Getting outside into nature allows you to slow the pace, look after yourself, and reclaim perspective. So why not head to a park for lunch? Just remember to eat slowly so that you can slow the pace and reconnect to what is going on inside of you.

  • Provide space for meditation or yoga, or bring services into the company that can help instill a more relaxed state of mind. If you can’t do that, then provide access to services nearby so employees can find an oasis in the day. Instilling a sense of ease maintains commitment to the work because vitality is renewed. Better decisions result.

  • Take your meetings on a walk. For one-on-one meetings, combine exercise with getting things done. Leave the personal distraction devices switched off so you can be present with the conversation. In larger meetings, when things get tense, take time out to walk about.

    In fact, take the whole conversation — or the whole meeting for that matter — on a walk . . . assuming it doesn’t mean 20 people wandering down a trail. True, you won’t all be talking about the same thing, but when you get back, you’ll find more clarity has bubbled to the surface.

Implementing these and other techniques you come up with on your own can alleviate pressure for yourself and your peers and employees, and improve the workplace environment.

Stress-related illness has traditionally been seen as a sign of personal weakness. Underlying that assumption is the notion that the workplace environment and business culture have no effect on performance. You know now that this isn’t the case.

However, if you still believe stress-related illness reflects a weak constitution, it’s a bias to manage. To uncover where that belief originated, ask yourself the question “Why?” You may have to ask it as many as five times to go deep enough to reveal the core belief at the heart of this assumption. When you do, however, you’ll have gained greater compassion for yourself and your staff.

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Dawna Jones generates imaginative insights and applies 25 years experience in helping businesses and organizations make bold decisions. She co-designs the future of organizations, transforming them from "business-as-usual" to inclusive cultures of prosperity.

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