Stress, personalities and the workplace.

The stressors of today’s economic and political climate place an added strain on the workplace learner, as if the busy work life and lifestyle of the average person wasn’t enough. The stressors include: increased job demands perhaps due to downsizing…..career concerns…..sagging sales…..demanding customers…..personal concerns about the mortgage, credit cards, bills…..expectation of constant busyness….even “success fatigue,” when things are going well.

The accumulated impact of these stressors is an inability to concentrate and perform cognitive tasks as well as they can be performed under optimal conditions. The impact on learning and application of the learning is obvious.

I found some of the recent information about stress and learning interesting:

* Certain “proactive” personalities support better learning under stressful conditions.
* A sense of mastery – of a particular skill – also results in lower levels of job stress.
* Motivation to learn partially reduces the negative impact of stress on learning.
* Positive stress can intensify when the usefulness of the learning goal is realized.

We seldom are able to “pick and choose” the personalities of who is in the classroom, but these tips may help workplace learning professionals capitalize on the other findings related to stress and learning.

* Ramp up the “I know you can do it” messages. Perceived mastery – the belief that they have mastered the skill and the belief that they can master the skill – inhibits negative stress.

* Review the learning design. Is the skill practice easy enough to promote success on the first try so that learners have a high chance of success? Consider adding skill practices with progressive difficulty.

* Set realistic learning goals, given the available time and focus of the trainees. Link learning goals to participants’ jobs and careers. How will learning the skills and knowledge help them do their jobs better and enhance their careers?

* Don’t demonstrate the skill any more than necessary. Seeing a skilled demonstration may actually reduce their perception of their own ability and/or their perceived mastery.

* Provide frequent pep talks to boost their belief in their ability to learn and master the skill.

* Provide stress-relieving breaks – stand-and-stretch breaks, silent meditation,

Trainers can’t make the stress go away but these are some techniques to reduce the negative impact of the stress on their learning.

How do you think stress is impacting workplace learning these days? Do certain personality/behavior styles seem to respond to stress is particular ways? Post your thoughts here!

Until next time…

Barbara

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