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    Interpersonal Relationships & Stress Management

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    Please help me with these review questions:

    1. Discuss an example of successful and unsuccessful handling of an interpersonal relationship at work.

    2. Discuss the various approaches to stress management an organization might institute and evaluate their merit.

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    1. Discuss an example of successful and unsuccessful handling of an interpersonal relationship at work.

    Successful handling of interpersonal relationships at work means that you try to create a win/win situation between and across relationships in all work related encounters. However, how do we create a win/win situation though? What do we need to do? In contrast, the unsuccessful handling of an interpersonal relationship at work is the exact opposite. Instead, we set up a situation of loose/win, which causes conflict (e.g., inability to active listen, being controlling and rigid, having little patience, triangulation causing bad feelings for everyone, to name a few) and workplace stress between and across relationships (see article in extra reading at the end of this response for more detail).

    Example 1: Triangulation: talking about others when they are not present
    Unsuccessful Triangulation:
    According to Sandelin (1997), for example, when people get into conflicts with each other, one of the fine arts of conflict is to use triangulation to bring people to your side of the issue. The way this works is that when A and B have a conflict, B talks to C and tells C lots of negative things about A. The goal of this type of triangulation is to degrade the person not present. This kind of malicious gossip can occur very easily and spontaneously, you may not even realize what it has done until you analyze why you feel a certain way towards someone, or how you ever got such a wrong notion about someone. Malicious triangulation is very dysfunctional behavior and is one of the worse things that can happen in a community. Malicious gossip and character assassination undermine relationships in a huge way. They poison people's perspectives of each other, fill voids of understanding with misinformation and deceit, and create an atmosphere of distrust, disrespect and paranoia. http://www.ic.org/nica/Process/Relation.html
    Successful Triangulation:
    According to Sandelin (1997), it is necessary to help your own understanding of people and their conflicts e.g. you need to get and share information about people who are not present. This is healthy and normal and there is an easy test to distinguish between what is healthy and helpful and what is unhealthy and destructive. It's the invisible person test. When the topic of someone who is not present comes up, imagine that the person of whom you are speaking or hearing about is standing behind you. If what you say, or hear would make that person angry, defensive, or unhappy you are engaged in an unhealthy triangulation. When you find yourself in triangulations about others, use the invisible person test and point it out to those present. If you go along with triangulation and character assassination, you become an accomplice to dysfunctional behavior that is very destructive to relationships. Relationships are the foundation of community. If you don't care about the community dynamic involved here let me add something to catch your self-interest: People who gossip to you, in turn, will gossip about you. So if you want to create a place where you don't have to worry about what people are saying about YOU behind YOUR back, it is worth the personal investment to point out triangulation whenever it happens. http://www.ic.org/nica/Process/Relation.html

    Example 2: Article (see in extra reading section below my final comments)

    Briefly, Sandelin (1997) discusses various methods to deal effectively with interpersonal conflict in the workplace, and considers such variables as personality differences, getting to know yourself, active listening skills, and so on. It also gives other examples to consider. It is a good read and very informative.

    2. Discuss the various approaches to stress management an organization might institute and evaluate their merit.

    First, you need to assess the nature of the problem, as there are different techniques to address each type of stressor. These approaches fit well with Sandelin's (1997) model mentioned above, and in the full article in the extra reading section below e.g. the 'know yourself step'. The best stress management techniques, however, deal with the specific problem but also considers the bio-psycho- social- environment aspects of stress as well?

    The following stress management techniques are mostly individual (nature) approaches versus changing the environment (nurture), but some address both.

    1. Is it poor time management?
    Time Management
    Good time management is essential if you are to handle a heavy workload without excessive stress. By using time management skills effectively, you can reduce work stress by being more in control of your time, and by being more productive. This ensures that you have time to relax outside work. The central shift of attitude within time management is to concentrate on results, not on activity.
    To this end, it embraces a range of skills that help you to:
    • Assess the value of your time, understand how effectively you are using it, and improve your time use habits;
    • Focus on your priorities so that you focus on the most important jobs to do, delegate tasks where possible, and drop low value jobs;
    • Keep a time management log or journal
    • Manage and avoid distractions; and
    • Create more time.
    Time Management helps you to reduce long-term stress by giving you direction when you have too much work to do. It puts you in control of where you are going, and helps you to increase your productivity. By being efficient in your use of time, you should enjoy your current role more, and should find that you are able to find the time to relax outside work and enjoy life. The next few tools we look at are some of the most immediately important time management skills. http://www.mindtools.com/stress/WorkOverload/TimeManagement.htm

    2. Is the stress due to a work overload?

    Workload issues lie behind much of the stress we experience. Not only can a heavy workload be tiring in its own right, it often drives us to work much longer hours than we would really like. This means that we spend time working that we'd prefer to use for the things that give life value. It also means that we're working when we should really be resting. Worse than this, a heavy routine workload leaves us little time to deal with the emergencies that come up from time-to-time. This adds to the feeling of being "out of control" that is so much part of stress. Successful workload management is therefore vitally important for your job satisfaction. The articles on the Mindtools.com (2006) website discuss techniques to management and handle work overload. Click here to read the introductory article. http://www.mindtools.com/stress/WorkOverload/IntroPage.htm

    3. Is it burnout?
    13 Signs of Burnout and How To Help You Avoid It (article excerpt)
    By Henry Neils
    In some ways it was a typical breakfast meeting. The waitress was pleasant, the eggs were average, and the restaurant was full of busy people. We shared a cup of black, coffee-like substance, and the first few times my client took a sip he managed to spill quite a bit of it. His trembling hand was just one of the symptoms of his burnout. That's why we were meeting. He wanted to know if I could help him. I picked up a fork and explained that as long as I used it for eating, the fork would last indefinitely. However, if I began to use it to drive nails or dig trenches, it would soon break. The key was to use it for what it was designed to do. The look in his eyes told me he got it, but I still went on to say that people are like the fork. When they do what they are not designed to do, they eventually break.
    Sure enough, his MAPP showed that he was designed to work on projects where there was a definite goal. He derived immense satisfaction from reaching goals. He also needed to work by himself about half the time. He was a scientist and enjoyed lab time, doing calculations, and interpreting test results. What his job required on a day-to-day basis was another story. His primary task was to supervise a dozen people and maintain operations. No goals. No projects. No time alone. Consequently, his job was sucking the life out of him. Much credit for his recovery goes to his boss who was willing to change the job content to fit the design of a valuable employee. So how do you know if you, a loved one, or someone who reports to you is suffering from burnout? Here are the early warning signs.
    1. Chronic fatigue - exhaustion, tiredness, a sense of being physically run down
    2. Anger at those making demands
    3. Self-criticism for putting up with the demands
    4. Cynicism, negativity, and irritability
    5. A sense of being besieged
    6. Exploding easily at seemingly inconsequential things
    7. Frequent headaches and gastrointestinal disturbances
    8. Weight loss or gain
    9. Sleeplessness and depression
    10. Shortness of breath
    11. Suspiciousness
    12. Feelings of helplessness
    13. Increased degree of risk taking
    Fight burnout. Do what you were designed to do. If you (or you know someone who does) fit this description have him/her take the MAPP Assessment. Take a close look at what is said about you in your MAPP, and what you are naturally motivated toward with regard to your work. Sometimes a simple change at work can help you avoid many (if not all) of the early warning signs of Burnout. http://www.assessment.com/mappmembers/avoidingburnout.asp?Accnum=06-5210-010.00

    4. Is it due to interpersonal personality conflicts or personality issues (e.g., lack of patience, being critical of others, being too controlling, rigid, to name a few?)
    See Sandelin (1997 below for conflict resolution techniques, such as active listening, knowing yourself, and so on) as a way to manage stress related to working relationships.

    5. Is it the inability to relax?

    Many organizations offer a range of stress management and relaxation programs designed to meet your individual needs. This means that they will focus on your unique situation and stresses, creating a totally individual plan asking such questions as:
    • Do you want to learn how to lead a more relaxed and happier life?
    • Do stressful situations leave you feeling unwell and unhealthy?
    • Do you have trouble sleeping?
    • Do you turn to unhealthy habits when you are tense and under stress?
    • Do you want more joy and happiness in your life and work life?
    Relaxation methods are often personal, ...

    Solution Summary

    Discusses an example of successful and unsuccessful handling of an interpersonal relationship at work. This solution also discusses the various approaches to stress management an organization might institute and evaluate their merit.