The sexes and disruptive emotions
Generally speaking men and women do handle disruptive emotions in different ways. The conventional wisdom (Okay, mostly men’s) might suggest that men are more practical and therefore better at fixing problems as they arise, but the research says the opposite.
An analysis of 50 studies showed that women used more coping strategies than men and were significantly more likely than men to ask for help. It it’s what women say about men refusing to ask directions. ‘We found no evidence,’ say the researchers, ‘that men engage in more problem-focused coping.’
The same study of studies revealed that women are more likely to seek emotional support, use positive self-talk and reframe. All of them are powerful coping strategies.
Researchers have found that many more women suffer what they call ‘chronic strain,’ by which they mean they have more pressure from parenting, housework, less social power and feel less appreciated than men. The researchers reason that it may be the chronic strain that increases the possibility of depression. Many women find ways of coping with chronic strain by finding support from others or shifting their attention to those parts of their lives they can control.98
Reducing stress at work
Researchers are reporting that it’s not the managers but the managed, who are most stressed by their work. It’s the employees in reception, the warehouse or the factory floor who have least control in a bureaucratic workplace and the least opportunity to develop more healthy conditions.
It would be easy to say that we should give everyone more control over their work, but we can’t assume that everyone will benefit from having more control. People who don’t have the confidence or skills to make use of the new freedom to control their work and who blame themselves when things go wrong become more stressed. Those self-blamers are healthier when they have less control because, when things go wrong, they are able to tell themselves that they couldn’t have done anything about it.
If you lead a business or team, consider whether your team members, individually, have the skills and confidence to handle empowerment. Are they ready for more control? Would they benefit from some training to develop some strategies for coping with the new problems you want them to handle? Consider too, how they explain setbacks. If they blame themselves, consider some retraining and support to help them view setbacks in a more useful way.
If you have team members who have the confidence and skills to handle more control over their work, you may be causing them unnecessary stress and illness by not giving them more autonomy. You are also missing out on the opportunity to develop their skills and motivate them to achieve more.