Friday, 24 February 2017

Signs of Stress every Project Professional should know

When you're working on projects you will experience many challenges: from working on multiple, often conflicting and ambiguous priorities, multiple streams of work (tasks, work packages, etc.) as well as interacting with many different types of (difficult) people, from different cultures, behaviours to different languages spoken. Your customers (stakeholders, client, sponsors) will vary in quality, more often than not applying pressure for their work getting done (because more than likely its linked to some kind of personal objective / business reward). This pressure is usually passed down to the project team members assigned. With the focus on delivery & timeline pressures, the project manager is often forced to multitask, expecting the same from project team members who often have the challenge of juggling between between project and non-project work, multi-project work (generally people are assigned to more than one project at a time) and not forgetting people's own personal/life (family, health, etc.) challenges thrown into the mix.

All of this can become too much, and as a project professional (project manager), who's primary responsibility (in my humble opinion) is to ensure his people are led, directed, guided, coached through the implementation phase of the project thus meeting expectations of the customer and coming away intact, that it behoves the project manager to be aware of the common signs and symptoms of stress. After all, we work with human beings, not machines that are oblivious to mood swings, emotional problems and simple pleasures - so being mindful of your team members state-of-mind, as well as your own -- and taking time to truly pause and reflect, adjusting your behaviour as a project manager can go a long way to not only improving your work relationships, but also can help with the the successful outcome of your project implementation.

The American Institute of Stress (AIS) stated that the term "stress" was coined by Dr. Hans Seyle in 1936, who defined it as a "the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change". He sometimes defined it as "the rate of wear and tear on the body".

Here are some fifty common signs and symptoms of stress from the AIS. Look out for these in your own life as well as the people you work with.
  • Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or pain
  • Gritting, grinding teeth
  • Stuttering or stammering
  • Tremors, trembling of lips, hands
  • Neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms
  • Light-headedness, faintness, dizziness
  • Ringing, buzzing or "popping" sounds
  • Frequent blushing, sweating
  • Cold or sweaty hands, feet
  • Dry mouth, problems swallowing
  • Frequent colds, infections, herpes sores
  • Rashes, itching, hives, goose bumps
  • Unexplained or frequent allergy attacks
  • Heartburn, stomach pain, nausea
  • Excess belching, flatulence
  • Constipation, diarrhoea
  • Difficulty breathing, sighing
  • Sudden attacks of panic
  • Chest pain, palpitations
  • Frequent urination
  • Poor sexual desire or performance
  • Excess anxiety, worry, guilt, nervousness
  • Increased anger, frustration, hostility
  • Depression, frequent or wild mood swings
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Insomnia, nightmares, disturbing dreams
  • Difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts
  • Trouble learning new information
  • Forgetfulness, disorganisation, confusion
  • Difficulty in making decisions
  • Feeling overloaded or overwhelmed
  • Frequent crying spells or suicidal thoughts
  • Feelings of loneliness or worthlesness
  • Little interest in appearance, punctuality
  • Nervous habits, fidgeting, foot-tapping
  • Increased frustration, irritability, edginess
  • Overreaction to petty annoyances
  • Increased number of minor accidents
  • Obsessive or compulsive behaviour
  • Reduced work efficiency or productivity
  • Lies or excuses to cover up poor work
  • Rapid or mumbled speech
  • Excessive defensiveness or suspiciousness
  • Problems in communication or sharing
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Constant tiredness, weakness, fatigue
  • Frequent use of over-the-counter drugs
  • Weight gain or loss without diet
  • Increased smoking, alcohol or drug use
  • Excessive gambling or impulse buying

Check out this Human Function Curve by Nixon in 1979, that illustrates the generally accepted view of the effect of stress on worker productivity. It is entirely personal and shows that each person has their own individual limits for stress - there are good stresses and bad ones. Zero stress = Zero performance - interesting.
Human performance peaks at modest amounts of stress. (Source: Nixon, p: Practitioner 1979)

Credits / Reference Material
I came across this topic from this book, Chapter 2 on The Human Behaviour Problem as Root Cause: Multitasking from Critical Chain Project Management by Leach

No comments:

Post a Comment