The Difference Between Positive and Negative Stress

January 17, 2017
| ByMike Ryan

It’s already mid-January. The holiday hiatus has given way to a frenetic pace again, hasn’t it? Heavy workloads, long hours and an “always on” mentality are back in vogue.

Take a look around you. Some people are falling right back into the swing of things, aren’t they? They seem to be totally into their work. What’s going on with them that isn’t going on with your other employees? Many things differentiate one worker from another, but one of the biggest is how they perceive stress.

“Positive stress” occurs when employees understand the mission and their role in it. They envision a positive outcome; they feel prepared and they are motivated. They feel supported.

Negative stress on the other hand occurs when employees feel frustrated or threatened. They don’t feel like the work is worth the effort. They feel that when they do throw themselves at a project or a problem, nobody seems to notice. The bottom line is this: they would rather be doing something else with their time. The job is not their calling or their identity. It gets in the way of the things that give them pleasure. They are not committed to what they are doing for work. It’s all seen as a negative.

Recognition is the big differentiator. People who are consistently acknowledged for their work tend to take on more willingly. They see themselves as a viable part of the organization’s success and they embrace its mission. They work harder (and longer) not just because they have to, but because they want to. They know that their efforts will be appreciated and they see themselves as an integral part of what’s happening at the company. That’s what makes the work and the stress that can come with it seem positive and not negative.

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