Stress can cause changes in those experiencing it. In some cases there are clear signs that people are experiencing stress at work and if these can be identified early, action can be taken before the pressure becomes a problem. This may make it easier to reduce and eliminate the causes.
It is important that everyone looks out for changes in a person's or a group's behaviour. However, in many cases the changes may only be noticeable to the person subject to the stress and so it is also important to look at how you are feeling and try to identify any potential issues you may have as early as possible and take positive action to address them; this may be raising the matter with a line manager, talking to an occupational health professional or your own GP.
Stress can show itself in many different ways - see below. Some of the items in this list may not be signs of stress if people always behave this way. Managers may need to manage staff exhibiting some of these signs differently. You are particularly looking for changes in the way people behave that could be linked with excessive pressures.
Signs of stress in individuals
If you are suffering from some of the following symptoms it may indicate that you are feeling the effects of stress. If you find that work or aspects of your work bring on or make these symptoms worse, speak to your line manager, trade union representative or your HR department. It may be that some action taken at an early stage will ease the stress and reduce or stop the symptoms.
- Negative or depressive feeling
- Disappointment with yourself
- Increased emotional reactions - more tearful or sensitive or aggressive
- Loneliness, withdrawn
- Loss of motivation commitment and confidence
- Mood swings (not behavioural)
- Confusion, indecision
- Cant concentrate
- Poor memory
Changes from your normal behaviour
- Changes in eating habits
- Increased smoking, drinking or drug taking 'to cope'
- Mood swings effecting your behaviour
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Twitchy, nervous behaviour
- Changes in attendance such as arriving later or taking more time off.
Please note these are indicators of behaviour of those experiencing stress. They may also be indicative of other conditions. If you are concerned about yourself please seek advice from your GP. If you are concerned about a colleague try to convince them to see their GP.
Signs of stress in a group
- Disputes and disaffection within the group
- Increase in staff turnover
- Increase in complaints and grievances
- Increased sickness absence
- Increased reports of stress
- Difficulty in attracting new staff
- Poor performance
- Customer dissatisfaction or complaints
It is not up to you or your managers to diagnose stress. If you or they are very worried about a person, recommend they see their GP. It is up to you and your managers to recognise that behaviours have changed, be aware that something is wrong and take prompt action. Take care not to over react to small changes in behaviour. You and your managers need to act when these behavioural changes continue. Use these symptoms (both individual and group) as clues.