Understanding stress is the first step to overcoming it, and hence defining Albrecht’s four types of stress helps to firstly understand the stress you are dealing with, and secondly determine the best practice for dealing with it. Dr Karl Albrecht, a stress-reduction specialist, developed the four types of stress in his 1979 book, “Stress and the Manager”.
1. Time Stress
Time stress is very common in the fast-paced, demanding modern working environment. Once projects are given deadlines and clients are promised work will be delivered in a certain time-frame, it is up to the employees to keep to these timings. If time is running out, this can be very stressful for the individuals responsible. Trying to complete the task in time can often result in important steps being missed, quality being reduced or extra resources being called upon. All of these scenarios can cause stress, and hence it is important to manage time well to avoid this.
Albrecht outlines a number of useful tools to minimise the amount of time stress you experience. One simple tool is to create a to-do list, whereby everything that needs to be done, and how long it is likely to take, is outlined. Prioritising these tasks can then help to ensure the most important tasks are completed before the deadline, if all the tasks cannot be. You can also maximise your productivity, by working on important and complex tasks when you are at your most productive. The author stresses that working on complex work late into the night is likely to have a negative impact on your overall project.
2. Anticipatory Stress
Although this may seem unusual, a large amount of workplace stress is associated with events that haven’t even occurred yet. This may be due to the uncertainty of future events, personal responsibility, i.e. a presentation or new processes or employees entering the business. This type of stress can cause great deals of frustration, particularly as there is nothing that can be done about it at the time.
Albrecht outlines three key mechanisms for dealing with this kind of stress. Firstly, given that the cause of the stress is in the future, you have time to make contingency plans and prepare for how to reduce the issues. Secondly, it is important to think positively about the future events. Often, our perception of how an event is going to go is the strongest determinant of how it actually goes. Thirdly, preparation and hard work into the future event is likely to make you feel better about it, and hence reduce stress.
3. Situational Stress
This type of stress occurs when you are put in a situation where you feel powerless, without support or you stop believing in your own ability. This may be due to your judgement being overruled or senior management being unwilling to listen to your point of view.
Unlike the other stresses, this event is likely to come as surprise and therefore you will be less prepared for it. In this situation it is important to have full control of your emotions and not let them control your actions. Communication is the key skill here, for explaining why you feel the way you do and finding a solution.
4. Encounter Stress
This type of stress is associated with interactions with other people. It may be due to you finding the other person hard to deal with, you may have a personal dislike for them or simply be nervous due to their seniority. This is generally considered to be an internal phenomenon, however it is also possible to experience this when dealing with unpredictable and unfriendly clients.
Developing strong interpersonal skills is the key to overcoming this type of stress. Strong emotional intelligence will help you to understand the desires of your colleagues, as well as to explain your own.
Understanding these four types of stress, and how they can be dealt with, will go a long way towards eliminating them from your working life. They are not the causes of all stress in the workplace, but do make up a large proportion of stress that we experience. It is important to remember that stress is inevitable and the fact that you, or your team members, are stressed is not an issue in itself. What is important is that stress is identified and dealt with at the earliest time possible.