Monthly Archives: December 2016

SOme Reasons You Keep Bringing Workplace Stress Home

Many individuals and couples suffer when they bring stressful, debilitating workday experiences home with them. A new study provides some information about what can help. Its findings are useful, but in a narrow way: They are limited by a significant omission that – unaddressed – fails to stem the impact of workplace stress upon home life. Unfortunately, such research is too often typical of the kind of academic studies that ignore the realities of everyday experience.

Let me explain: Researchers from the University of Central Florida found that exercise and sleep are the keys to keeping employees from bringing work stress and frustrations home. The study, reported in this summary from the University, focused in particular at abusive behavior at home in relation to workplace experiences. They found that employees who engaged in more walking at work, and had more sleep, were less likely to be abusive towards their partners at home. That is, according to researcher Shannon Taylor, “…employees who are mistreated at work are likely to engage in similar behaviors at home. If they’ve been belittled or insulted by a supervisor, they tend to vent their frustration on members of their household. Our study shows that happens because they’re too tired to regulate their behavior.”

Really? Because they’re too tired? Of course, exercise and sleep are important for everyone to sustain and improve health – especially in these times of stress and uncertainty in all realms of life. Corporations are starting to take note, as well. But as a solution to the debilitating impact of workplace stress? Not so much. The findings from that study focus on one of its symptoms, but not its source.

That is, the wellspring of most employee distress and dissatisfaction in our organizations is the management culture and leadership practices that are negative and destructive, either directly or indirectly. They include practices and environments those that are abusive, psychologically unhealthy, unsupportive of career development, too limiting of opportunities for continued learning; and a host of other features.

I’ve described in The New Resilience many examples – such as dealing with the impact of unhealthy management practices and the emotional damage that results; the sources of negative views about management and work that surveys regularly find; and many related issues whose origin are found in unhealthy management and leadership. The latter continue to be implicated in the variety of emotional and physical ailments people experience in their workplace and careers.

Regarding the current study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, note that it was conducted with MBA students – a population whose daily experiences, while stressful in their own way, are not the same as those encountered by entry level, mid-level or senior career workers in organizations. So the researchers’ conclusions — “burning an additional 587 calories can reduce the harmful effects of mistreatment and help prevent it from carrying into the home…(such as) an hour of swimming or a brisk 90-minute walk” — are healthy practices, to be sure. But they don’t address the fact that healthier organizations will help people experience more positive, supportive, and meaningful career and work experiences to begin with.

Know Some Signs Your Elderly Parent Is No Longer Fit To Drive

During our childhood, it was our parents who looked out for us. They provided food, shelter, care, and love. But as the years turn into decades, our parents become our responsibility. It is often up to family members to spot the signs that their elderly parents are no longer safe drivers. However, age alone should not be the sole determining factor when considering driving ability. Some 70-year-olds might be unsafe drivers, whereas some 90-year-olds could still be well capable of driving. Here are eight signs to look out for.

1. Hearing and/or Sight Loss

Hearing and visual aids can only do so much to help the elderly drive a vehicle.
A friend recently told me that her mom complained of trouble reading road signs. When my friend suggested that maybe it was time for her mom to give up her car, her mom said she just needed new glasses. There comes a time when the damage cannot be mitigated and the potential risks outweigh the benefits of driving. Help your elderly parent understand that giving up their driving privilege is for their own safety and that of other drivers on the road- and not a punishment.

2. Minor Dents in Your Parent’s Car

Minor dents are an indication that they are having small crashes that they may not even be noticing. I remember one older gentleman who I saw back out of his parking space and into the car behind him. He drove away as if he didn’t realize it had happened. These minor dents can be a harbinger of a more serious accident.

3. Easily Distracted

This can be noticed at home if they frequently start and abandon minor tasks. When driving, does your parent suddenly lose concentration? If they’re driving, they may be easily distracted by a conversation, daydreaming, changing the radio station, or adjusting the temperature controls. Suggest that they delegate tasks like changing the radio station or adjusting the temperature controls to a passenger, and keep their focus on the road if engaging in a conversation. If these precautionary measures don’t help, then they should strongly consider giving up driving.

4. Regular Alcohol Consumption

Compared to younger people, alcohol may affect the elderly differently. Have you noticed them having trouble with balance when walking? Be careful not to mistake this as a result of aging- it may be an indication of alcohol’s effect. If this is the case, they should not be driving. One drink can have a much greater effect in their older age, than in their younger years. A study conducted by Sara Jo Nixon, Ph.D. and her team, “. . . found that despite the participants’ low BAC, just one serving of alcohol was enough to affect seniors’ driving abilities. They found no significant signs of impaired driving among the younger moderately intoxicated drivers.”

5. Slow Reaction Time

Do they run red lights or stop signs? Does your parent fail to brake when an animal runs out onto the road? If this happens, point out that next time it could be a child. This could be something that would warn them to be more careful, or consider giving up driving entirely. My friend whose mom has difficulty reading signs also mentioned to me that because her mom is generally weakened, she is concerned about her reaction time as well. While she hasn’t given up her car, it is currently in at my friend’s house. She shared with me that she was concerned that her mom would try to drive if the car was available.

6. Poor Driving Techniques

Is your parent hunched over the wheel? Do you catch him or her driving out of their lane? Does your parent drive abnormally slow or fast for conditions? Does he or she appear to be tense or a “white knuckle” driver? This might be an indication that your parent is also be nervous about driving and is trying very hard to avoid driving mistakes. These cues might appear minor, but left unaddressed can cause serious accidents down the road.

7. Multiple Tickets

Does it seem like the parking and speeding tickets are quickly adding up? A missed stop sign, not signaling when switching lanes, or forgetting to turn on their headlights can be a sign that it’s time for them to stop driving.

8. You’re Nervous Sitting in the Passenger Seat

If you don’t feel safe sitting next to them in the passenger seat then it’s imperative you let them know. It may be hard to put your finger on what exactly is making you nervous, but it is always better to be extra safe than risk an accident or tragedy. This is an important sign that should not be ignored.

If you pick up on any of these signs, it is important that you speak to your parent and suggest they stop driving. If they fail to understand the significance of these signs, consider taking them to the doctor for an expert opinion. This will help them understand why they should make the decision to stop driving. Also, be sure to explain to your parent that they are not giving up their independence by giving up their driving privileges. Instead, offer them alternatives like public transport, ride-sharing, or door-to-door services. Highlight the benefits of these alternatives- meeting new people, safety, and dependability. Remind them that they are not being punished and that this precaution is for their safety and those of other drivers.

Get Better Communication

When partners come to me to request I help them improve their communication, what they usually mean is ‘please help me feel heard.’ In other words, they are talking, but their partner isn’t ‘hearing’ or, sometimes, isn’t agreeing. Fair enough. Following these basic ideas can create significant improvements:

Model – and require – respectful behavior. Seems straightforward, but when partners objectively look at what they are saying, they may find they are justifying angry outbursts, demands, put downs, and more. Further, respect is too often confused with compliance, which is NOT what I’m referring to here. No matter whether you are in agreement or completely on opposite side of an issue, respectful interactions are critical for good communication. Without respect you move quickly into the defensiveness and wall-building, which shuts down communication fast.

Seek to repair after disagreements. John Gottman’s research points to the importance of repair behaviors in healthy relationships. We all disagree – Gottman’s work suggests the number of times we do so is less important than how we ‘repair’ from those disagreements. Repair behaviors include apologies, laughter, hugs or touch, finding common ground, validation, and more. In essence, anything that calms you both down and helps you remember you’re a team.

Remember that most issues aren’t resolvable. About 70% of disagreements are unresolvable over the long term, yet we continue to be held hostage by the idea that if we just ‘discuss it enough’ we will somehow find a breakthrough. Instead, when you encounter one of these areas of disagreement, do one of the following: look for a work around instead of a solution; agree to disagree and move on; or set up a system in which you each once in a while get a ‘my way’ pass – that is, whomever feels the most strongly about the topic gets to use their ‘pass’ and the other partner agrees to adopt that solution and move on with no hard feelings. (You can only have a few of these a year, for obvious reasons…and you both have to agree that you want to adhere to the system.)

Value your partner’s opinions and concerns as much as your own. This can be a tough one for many people. But your way and your partner’s way are different, not ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Truth is, opinions and concerns are not FACTS. They are ideas based upon your own unique background, physiology and experiences. Your partner’s opinions are always valid because they are his or her own, whether or not you understand how s/he got there…and vice versa. We all have a bias to think we are ‘right’ because (among other things) our logic and attitudes make complete sense to us. Good communication, however, requires valuing your partner’s logic flow, too.

Internalize that you are only in charge of you. Healthy couples understand that they are differentiated from each other. In other words, you’re not in charge of your partner, and your partner is not in charge of you. Yet a lot of what we say is ‘partner focused’ – what we think our partner ought to be doing differently or better, for example. Focus, instead, on expressing your own feelings and ideas. If you have a suggestion for your partner, offer it up as such – an idea, but not a requirement or a judgment. You’ll find that this approach greatly improves your partner’s desire to communicate – nobody likes to be told what to do, while many like to share their ideas when invited to do so.

Practice non-defensive listening. If you ever find yourself constructing your rebuttal while listening to your partner, or prickling at the idea that your partner’s suggestions are really a disguised form of attack, then you are most likely listening defensively. We do this ALL the time and to get out of it takes overt effort and practice. The goal is to be open to what you are hearing as always legitimate (as it’s your partner’s opinion) and to actively seek the ‘truth’ in what s/he is saying. Believe your partner’s words, rather than try to rebut them, and ask how s/he got there. When you do, the conversation will become significantly more productive for you.