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Human Resources Management
Tips for Much Less Stress In Your Workplace
By Michael Mercer, Ph.D.
Nov 6, 2007, 15:59

Stress is a hot topic in the workplace.  Some employees get bent out of shape by almost anything.  Other people calmly take almost any sort of situation in stride.


Here are immediately useful tips for leaders and all employees.  First are tips to help leaders avoid hiring people who will waste time and energy feeling stressed-out and burnt to a crisp.  Second are tips to help every working person confidently handle stress in a poised manner.




1.  Look for specific pre-employment test scores.

A superb pre-employment test predicts (a) reaction to pressure or stress and (b) optimism.  A job applicant who smoothly handles whatever is thrown at him or her will receive high test scores on two pre-employment test scales:

a.  Objective Reaction to Pressure – that is, the person will act poised under pressure

In contrast, a high-stress applicant will score low, indicating a subjective reaction to pressure and stress.  (That is a nice way to say the low-scoring applicant loves to whine, moan, and complain.) 

b.  Optimism – that means the person is upbeat, confident, and focuses on solutions.  In contrast, a person whose Optimism test score is low is pessimistic.  A pessimist searches for a reason to feel Chicken Little was right that “the sky is falling.”


2.  Watch how the applicant reacts to taking the pre-employment test. 

In the third book I wrote, “Hire the Best -- & Avoid the Rest,” I point out that whatever behavior you see from an applicant in the screening process is the best behavior you will see from that person.  So, if the applicant whines or freaks out about taking a pre-employment test, then that is a bad sign.  Watch out:  The person is telling you stress is the name of their game.


3.  Ask pointed questions in job interviews.

Force the applicant to tell you specific details of their work accomplishments and failures.  Do not let them get away with platitudes about “doing good work.”  Also, tell the applicant you might verify everything they tell you.  Observe their reactions to these pressure interviewing methods.  If they act jittery, that indicates they may be high stress if you hire them.  Does any manager want to deal with that?



1.  Get along with people.

Low-stress employees usually create smooth working relationships with practically everyone.  To do this, find things you have in common and act friendly with absolutely everybody – from the president down to the janitors.

2.  Always be diplomatic and tactful.

Never act impatient nor angry – regardless of how you feel  Expressing anger in your workplace results in direct or subtle retaliation, which surely increases stress.


3.  Learn what is expected of you.

Find out exactly what is expected from you by the two most important people:  Your (a) boss and (b) boss's boss.  These two people will make or break your career, and greatly affect your stress level.  When you meet their expectations you simultaneously can get ahead plus decrease a possible cause of stress.

4.  Be a team player with your boss and co-workers.

Team players express gratitude to others, and receive less grief than employees who seem  rebellious or act like loners.

5.  Give 3 compliments each day at work.

People love receiving compliments, and they will make your life easier.  Reason:  You made them feel good with a compliment.  They will remember your compliment when you ask for a favor.

6.  Set goals for yourself – both personal and work-related.

High-stress people rarely take actions to accomplish their goals.  Low-stress people, on the other hand, spend more than half their time doing actions that help them achieve their short-term or long-term goals. 


Here is a revealing to discover how much time you really devote to achieving your goals.  First, write down everything you did in the last seven days.  Second, on a separate piece of paper, list your (a) three short-term goals – to achieve in the next three months and (b) three long-term goals – to achieve in three years. Third, look at your seven-day activity list, and note any actions you did that helped you accomplish short-term or long-term goals.

Typically, people spend less than five percent of their time doing activities that will achieve their goals.  And people feel more frustrated – and stressed – when they do not accomplish their short-term and long-term goals.

7.  Write a daily "to-do" list.

Each day before leaving work, write a list of what you need to do the next work day. That quick organizing helps prevent you feeling overwhelmed by tasks you need to do.

8.  Keep a neat desk or work space.

You do not need obsessive-compulsive neatness.  For example, my desk is covered with a lot of papers.  But, I keep a 2-foot X 2-foot space to use only for work I am doing at that moment.

9.  Exercise at least a little every day.

Any movement or exercise helps.  Even a 10-minute walk helps.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Park at the far end of the parking lot.  People bottle-up emotional tension in their muscles.  By exercising a little, you release emotional and physical stress.  Then, you will feel more clear-headed when you encounter a stressful situation.

10.  De-employ yourself – consider changing jobs.

If the above nine tips do not help you, then you might want to find a new job.  Remember the wise  saying:  "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."


Copyright 2007 The Mercer Group, Inc.



Michael Mercer, Ph.D., is a sought-after keynote speaker at conferences and seminar leader at companies.  He wrote 5 books, including “Hire the Best -- & Avoid the Rest(tm)” and “Absolutely Fabulous Organizational Change(tm).”  Dr. Mercer created 3 pre-employment tests that many companies use to help them hire the best.  These are the “Forecaster(tm) Tests.”  You can get his three 14-page Special Reports on leadership, self-improvement and hiring – plus subscribe to his free Management Newsletter – at or