Handling Feelings of Work Stress and Inadequacy: An Interview with Barry Davis

Barry DavisThis week we answer the question, “Can a person be well matched to a job but still feel overly stressed and inadequate?”

To supplement this discussion, we interviewed Barry Davis who is the Director of Career Services and a Career Coach for LMA Consulting Group.

Tell me about LMA Consulting Group.

LMA Consulting is the Consulting arm of LMA Systems Group, along with our sister organization Life Management Associates, and Employee Assistance Services and behavioral healthcare provider. Our consulting group’s areas of specialty include Strategic Consulting, Human Resources, Coaching, Career Services, Outplacement, Team Building/Conflict Resolution, Training & Development and Family Business Consulting.

In Sylvia’s YouTube video, asks, “Can a person actually be well matched to a job or position but still feel overly stressed and inadequate?”  How would you respond to this question?

They certainly can, particularly if they do not employ wise stress management principles, including practices like eating well, exercising, forging supportive relationships, developing a reasonable work/life balance, etc. Actually “good stress,” often called eustress, can be as debilitating as “bad stress,” typically the distress that we associate with the term. You really can get “too much of a good thing.” Failure to establish healthy lifestyle practices in dealing with both sides of the stress phenomenon can be equally damaging to one’s health, both physically and psychologically.

Sylvia states that feelings of stress and inadequacy are often the result of low self-esteem and constant stress.  However, this doesn’t mean that a person isn’t suited for a particular job or position. What advice would you give to someone in this situation?

There are excellent cognitive interventions to aid the individual in altering their perspective, reducing self-censure and developing what Dr. Martin Seligman would call “learned optimism.” The combination of lowered self-esteem and unaddressed stress in a person’s life can easily spiral out of control, creating something of a self-fulfilling prophesy regarding their perceived lack of competence. A favorite reference of mine for this issue is a book titled “The 10 Dumbest Mistakes Smart People Make and How to Avoid Them,” by Freeman and Dewolf.

Do you believe it’s possible for stress to become habitual?

Although there are some individuals who are energized by challenge (sometimes referred to as “adrenaline junkies”), there is a higher likelihood that stress becomes “habitual” due to its constant, overwhelming presence in the individual’s life. Stress cannot (and really should not) be avoided, but effective stress management techniques like the ones cited earlier should be part of their daily routine. A good metaphor for balance would be the tuning of a musical instrument – if the string is too loose, the music is out of tune; if too tight, it could break. Soothing music occurs when it is just taut enough.

What can both employees and managers do to overcome feelings of stress or inadequacy?

On the stress side, training, practice and modeling of effective stress management techniques will aid in achieve the balance noted above. Feelings of inadequacy need to be traced to their source and addressed. For example, has the individual received the training and resources to perform their job effectively, are the placed appropriately in the organization to tap into their strongest abilities, etc.? Open and honest communication between employees and managers is the best place to start.

If you find someone is in the wrong job or position, how would you coach him or her especially in an economy/job market such as the one we are experiencing?

Since statistics consistently report that around 8 of 10 individuals are vocationally misplaced (to use the title of a book from my reading list by Julie Jansen – “I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This”), I encounter this situation almost daily. Initially I will spend time with them in clarifying what I like to call their “Best Stuff” – strongest interests, deepest values and most satisfying skills – through consultation and assessment. The next best step is to seek any opportunities to engage these factors in their present position and company. If this is not possible, we begin to investigate alternatives, whether short time and informal like volunteer work, hobbies, etc., or more formal through consideration of a change in employer or even career. I believe there are two basic ways one gets paid – with money and with personal satisfaction. There is never enough money to replace the lack of fulfillment in one’s work and life. To quote the last “rule” from Dan Pink’s excellent Manga book on career development, “The Adventures of Johnny Bunko”- “Leave an imprint.”

Barry Davis is Director of Career Services for LMA Consulting Group.  Holding a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Millersville University and designated as a Master Career Development Professional by the National Career Development Association, he has contributed to the Association’s online newsletter, Career Convergence as well as presenting as a keynote speaker for Middle Atlantic Career Counseling Association (MACCA) annual conferences. Davis has also received the title of Certified Talent Consultant for advanced assessment training with the Institute of Personality and Ability Testing. Over his 20+ year career, Barry has worked with thousands of people in diverse industries in dealing with the age-old question “What do I want to be… next?” He has extensive experience in working with companies and individuals in the throes of employment and life transition, and is still working on answering this question for himself!  On a personal side, he is an inveterate reader, pushing books on anyone who comes within earshot (he has well over 100 book reviews on his LinkedIn profile), and has completed 31 full marathons.


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