Surviving Your Company’s Hiring Freeze
By Dr. Richard Davis
TORONTO, ON, July 28, 2011/ – As the economy continues the slow process of recovery, a lot of space in magazines, blogs and websites is devoted to speculation on when hiring will return to more normal levels. In truth, no one has a credible estimation as to when companies will feel secure enough to add headcount. But behind the headlines are real flesh and blood people who are tasked with filling the workload gaps and keeping organizations productive without the luxury of ramping up staffing levels.
The stress is felt both by managers, who must keep the workforce motivated and engaged, and the employees themselves, who are often asked to achieve the same volume of output done by many more people in the past. The question is: Can “the few” continue to do the work of “the many” without burning out?
Part of the problem is uncertainty. It is easier psychologically to endure intense periods of stress when they are short in duration and an end is in view. Open ended stress takes its toll emotionally and physically. Over time, this kind of stress leads to what psychologists call, “learned helplessness” – a kind of stressful malaise in which people feel powerless to change themselves or their situation. It can be quite difficult to emerge from such a state, and I suspect a great number of “Hiring Freeze Survivors” are stuck there at this very moment.
Try some of the following methods for dealing with the pressure:
Beware the hassles
Most people think of big life events as the major sources of stress, but in fact it is the small, daily hassles that create real tension. Losing your keys, having someone cut in front of you at the cafeteria, waiting too long for a slow elevator, not being able to find a pen when you need it – these are the constant irritations that will really cause one to burn out. When trying to reduce the inevitable stress of a hiring freeze, don’t think in terms of the big issues; think about how you can remove the subtle hassles in your life that never fail to drive you crazy.
Be an optimist
It may sound facile, but many studies show that optimists are best able to cope with stress and are the most resilient in the face of ambiguity. So, look for the bright side – it will serve you well. Think about the future and your goals. Create a set of objectives for the year and think about how you are going to achieve them. Above all, think up a plan and look ahead as much as possible.
Know when to worry
Differentiate between productive and unproductive worrying. Worrying can sometimes allow us to come up with solutions to challenges as we dwell on them and tease the answers from our brain. Thinking about a project while running or working out often produces an insight previously overlooked. Worrying unceasingly about circumstances over which we have no control over is frustrating and counterproductive. If you are going to worry, do it about the stuff you can control and try your hardest to block out all the rest of it.
Speaking of running – watch out for your health. Don’t forget to allow time for exercise. Not only does it reduce stress levels by burning off excess adrenaline, it also relaxes muscles and promotes better sleeping habits. If you only have time for a 15 minute walk, take it. Find opportunities throughout the day to burn a few calories – take the stairs, park your car away from the entrance or review a document while standing up. Try to keep to a regular bedtime and start winding down an hour ahead of time by reading or listening to your favorite music.
Use your social network
No, I don’t mean go on Facebook and commiserate! I mean your real social network – the people around you may be your best defense against work-related stress. Individuals with healthy relationships at home, with friends, and with colleagues are much more able to handle stress than those who have negative or non-existent social support systems. Be careful not to over-share your pain, but instead rely on the people around you to make life fun and interesting. Your workdays will seem better as a result.
While these suggestions are mostly common sense, it is important to be aware of what the stress in doing to you and find something in your life that can break the cycle, even if it is just for a short period of time.
Richard Davis (author of The Intangibles of Leadership: 10 Qualities of Superior Executive Performance is licensed as an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist by the College of Psychologists of Ontario. As a management psychologist and partner with the Toronto office of RHR International, he helps senior leaders execute their business strategy through smart decisions about people. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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