Stressful jobs wreak havoc on families. Unmanageable workloads, demanding bosses or colleagues who slack-off can take a toll. While workers take the brunt, their families suffer too.
According to workplace psychologist Dr. Jennifer Newman, it’s common for employees in such circumstances to have trouble switching-off when they get home from work. Stressful workplaces can quickly drain the intrinsic motivation many employees bring with them to their roles, leading to cynicism, jadedness and low motivation.
Fortunately, there are some things employees and employers can do to off-set the harmful effects of stressful workplaces on employees, and their families by extension. These are discussed at length in Dr. Jennifer Newman’s interview with the CBC’s Rick Cluff on The Early Edition, which is available in the below MP3.
Families can suffer because of a loved-one’s job
If a worker is stressed at work it comes home with them. I worked with a father who was having trouble with his boss. When he went home he was preoccupied and irritable. His wife found him negative and grumpy during the week, but relaxed on his days off.
Workers will spend time ruminating about problems at work. They don’t leave it behind and the family inevitably hears about it. One worker I met with, said his kids started asking him when he would stop talking about work, and another worker’s children wanted to know why she wasn’t happy anymore.
Workers don’t shut things off when they get home
Despite what we are told, it’s not only because of technology. Happy workers tend to have better family lives. There’s a relationship between being engaged at work and family satisfaction, and they have better work-life balance too. That’s because being engaged at work and at home makes workers feel effective in all their roles. The converse is also true – being disengaged, drained and unfulfilled at work has a negative effect on families.
If a worker tends to be a happy person, they tend to be happy at work and at home
Workers who tend to be ‘intrinsically motivated’ seem to be more engaged generally. Intrinsically motivated folks become absorbed by what they are doing. Including when they’re around family or working at something in a dedicated way and they do it all with gusto.
That said, difficult workplaces can suck the life out of anyone. If that starts happening and a worker stops enjoying their work, their family can bear the brunt.
Alone, disliking your job won’t hurt your family – There’s more to it
Worker’s whose jobs hurt their families are often going through significant changes at work. These include an uptick in workload, a negative change in supervisor or being put in a no-win situation.
I worked with a Team Lead who was told he had to take on a small project. It quickly ballooned in size, and it became clear more personnel were needed. But it was just him. He became consumed by the project, working constantly. His family took a back seat. He felt he was drowning at work, and overwhelmed at home. Then the project was taken away from him, and he was criticized for not delivering. His family stood helplessly by while he became more and more anxious, and he ended up on sick leave.
Employees and their families have some options if someone’s job is dragging everyone down
Sit down together as a family. Don’t let your loved one do it alone, especially if may want to isolate themselves. Don’t let them. Be willing to listen to the endless stories that seem to repeat themselves, pull together and create a plan.
Find ways to simplify home life. This is not a time to take on more obligations. Make sure chores and household duties are not adding to the feelings of being overwhelmed. Divide the duties, get them off the stressed worker’s shoulders. This is especially true for women undergoing stress at work. Trouble shoot responses to whatever’s going on. It may mean devising an exit plan, or figuring out who to talk to at the company, or what to say to the boss.
Plan down time, get exercise as a family. Families may seem to fight more during this time because members feel powerless to help. They may take it out on their upset loved one. Consider using your Employee Assistance Program or seeing a marriage and family psychologist.
Organizations help stressed workers and their families
If you start to see a worker suffering, you’ll notice a mood change, changes in work quality, or absences. Try to identify any issues the worker may be facing on the job. Be curious, because there it could be any number of things – conflict with a supervisor, trouble knowing what’s a priority, going it alone on a project or feeling overwhelmed by a specific task are just a few.
Intervene to target the reasons for the stress. Work on the supervisory relationship and help the worker get clarity or enlist the team to help. Provide training if there’s a skill deficit is often helpful as well. Consider asking about how the job is affecting the employee’s family, ask how you might help and then follow through with them.