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LeadingEdition: E-Newsletter for Purdue University Supervisors

Get ready, get set �
Preparing for stress in customer service crunch times

I am aware that it takes a lot of nerve to mention the specter of approaching hordes of students and other customers when many in service areas are just finding the tops of their desks. However, there are a few simple things supervisors and their staff members can do to help reduce the effects of the inevitable stress that accompanies these increased demands.

Know your limits

We can begin by becoming more aware of our own personal stress alarms. Our bodies are designed to arm us with additional resources to either fight or flee in the face of danger or its modern-day equivalent: stressful situations. World-renowned effectiveness trainer FranklinCovey� defines stress as �our response to events we perceive as threatening to our needs.� We can react physically, mentally, and emotionally when we feel threatened. Understanding what our bodies are trying to tell us in time to manage our response is a powerful way to turn a potentially negative situation (which could result in even more stress) into a personal victory.

Know what you can change

A second step in the attempt to lessen the negative aspects of stress is to identify those factors we can control and those we cannot. Externally-controlled aspects of our work cannot be changed simply by wishing it were so. But increasing employees� opportunities to have an impact on their work and increasing those things they can change can have a significant impact on reducing stress. Encouraging employees to provide solutions rather than problems, then assisting them in the realization of those solutions, increases their influence in a productive way. If employees' ideas are met with support, they will be much more apt to continue to view tasks and processes with an eye toward improvement. Increased ownership and productivity are great stress reducers.

Another way to limit the negative results of stress is to build an environment of consistency, encouragement, and emotional safety. It is not always possible for human beings to sail right through a challenging situation, but if the goals, roles, and procedures are clear, coping well with difficulties is more feasible. Offering an opportunity to take a moment out to breathe deeply or stretch can also alleviate a possible meltdown. And making sure that everyone knows that success for all is based on the success of each individual can be the buoy to hold onto in a stormy interchange.

Of course, not all stress is bad. Sometimes it results in increased productivity in the face of urgency. But for those other times � and we all know they will occur � supervisors can set the stage for a balanced work environment and better service to our customers.

� Sue Ann Ford
HR Training and Development

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LeadingEdition is an electronic newsletter for Purdue University supervisors.  It is produced and distributed by Purdue University Human Resources four times annually.  If you have questions, comments or suggestions relating to the newsletter, please call 49-41679 or email us.  Thank you.