3 Personal causes of stress
In this section you will be invited to complete four activities to encourage you to explore the personal causes of stress, as these apply to the ‘industry’ of health and social care, drawing on a case study. Specifically, the activities ‘It wasn’t like this before’, ‘Finding a way forward’, ‘The manager’s lot’ and ‘Time management’ primarily as these apply to the case study of Lakshmi and Angelique.
The stress that people are experiencing in their own lives can impact on them and their behaviour in a work situation. For the next few activities, you will be engaging with a case study about a woman called Lakshmi and her return to work following the death of her mother.
Box 1 Stress in the workplace: a health and social care case study
Lakshmi lives and works in Leicester and has been an Occupational Therapist for her local NHS Trust for 15 years. She has always enjoyed her job, gets on well with other team members and has a really good relationship with her manager, Angelique. She is married, has a teenage son and lives a short drive from the office. Her family lives nearby. Sadly, her mother died from cancer in 2019, only six months after her initial diagnosis. Following the death, Lakshmi took two weeks off work. Upon her return she had her back-to-work interview, during which Angelique suggested a phased return, but Lakshmi felt this was not needed. However, soon after she found that her usual love of work had changed.
The first activity involves listening to audio clips that feature Lakshmi and her manager, Angelique. They talk about what happened before and during the time when Lakshmi’s mother was dying, her subsequent death and the effect that this had on both Lakshmi’s feelings about work and her performance at work.
Activity 4 It wasn’t like this before
Listen to the following two audio clips, during which Lakshmi and Angelique independently reflect on the situation from their own perspectives.
Transcript: Audio 1 Lakshmi’s perspective
Transcript: Audio 2 Angelique’s perspective
What do you think could be causing Lakshmi’s behaviour? Make a list of possible causes.
High levels of stress, such as that caused by bereavement, can lead to burnout, a sense of loss of control, disengagement from work and, ultimately, ill health. Lakshmi had experienced the trauma of losing her mother and had also lost the sense of fulfilment from, and engagement with, work, which she used to enjoy. Employees who have a sense of engagement in what they do find that, instead of experiencing work as stressful and demanding, they look on it as a positive challenge which, in turn, enhances their wellbeing, involvement and efficacy. When they lose that engagement, they often go down an energy-depleting path which can quickly lead to a drop in performance, fatigue and even burnout (Seemann and Seemann, 2013; Strauss, Parker and O’Shea, 2017).
Now listen to Lakshmi talking about how her stress built up at work.
Transcript: Audio 3 Lakshmi’s build-up of stress
As you listen, think about the following questions:
- Have you ever experienced feelings similar to Lakshmi’s?
- Have you seen someone else go through similar emotions?
- In such situations, what do you think helps the person concerned?
Such situations need to be handled sensitively; caring leaders and managers can draw on both management and leadership skills to develop a style of management that builds on their personal awareness to support staff, while simultaneously acknowledging their humanity and dealing sensitively with strong feelings. This kind of approach can play an important part in retaining staff, keeping morale high and enabling people to deal with the inevitable pressures of work in health and social care.
As the case study of Lakshmi and Angelique continues, you will see the importance of a caring approach to management.