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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Aug. 18, 201012:00 PM EST

Preventing workplace meltdowns

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by Karen Brune Mathis

Managing Editor

JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater reacted to workplace stress in an unexpected fashion recently when he cursed over the plane’s intercom, grabbed beer from the plane’s galley and exited down the emergency slide at Kennedy International Airport.

Experts say workplace stress isn’t unusual, but can be anticipated and overreactions can be avoided, although Slater’s escape apparently was not predicted.

Workplace experts say the economic recession, which began 32 months ago and has yet to be declared over, has been causing job and wage insecurity.

That’s in addition to the usual stress from relationships, health and other life situations, including typical job issues that people face regularly.

“Everyone has some level of stress in their life,” said Suzi Lemen, president of Dynamic Corporate Solutions, a human-resources consulting company.

“If an employee is obviously very stressed, talk to them and give them an outlet or time off if necessary. A few minutes of your time is much better than a lifetime of regret,” she said.

Cyndi Rooks, senior manager of employee relations with the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, also is the support services chair of the HR Florida State Council, the state affiliate for the Society for Human Resource Management. She also is past president of the society’s Jacksonville organization.

Rooks said that unrealistic job expectations, especially during the recession, and the uncertainty caused by corporate reorganizations “can put unhealthy and unreasonable pressures on the employee.”

Layer ever-increasing technology on top of that and there could be a stress overload.

“The expansion of technology, computers, BlackBerrys, iPhones and so on has resulted in heightened expectations for productivity and increasing pressure on the individual worker to constantly operate at peak performance levels,” said Rooks.

“Encourage employees to come forward when they are feeling overwhelmed and burdened at work,” she said.

“Have a wellness program that provides educational opportunities for employees to understand physical and mental wellness.”

Jarik Conrad of Jarik Consulting provided 10 steps for “stress-proofing” yourself: Know how to tell when you are over-stressed; learn how to recognize when others are over-stressed; understand how your behavior affects others; eat a healthy, balanced diet; exercise regularly; get plenty of sleep; practice proper breathing; pick up a hobby; plan effectively; and work on building positive relationships.

To read more about what the experts say about handling workplace stress, see page A-3.

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