Stress Help is available for Call-centre Stress

A few weeks ago, this column introduced the theme of Emotional Intelligence or ‘EI’  –  the perception, control and constructive use of emotions in ourselves and in others (the ‘opposite’ intelligence from left-brain logic, as reflected in IQ.)

By chance, one of my clients who was  suffering from occupational stress and required counselling was a young woman who was working long hours at a large customer-service call-centre, and it occurred to me for the first time that call-centres were a prime test of EI. This is ironical, because a call-centre is supposed to be the super-rational answer that reduces customer services to a smooth sequence of well-rehearsed scripts intended to improve the customer relationship, free of stress effects, where all those inevitable emotions of anger and frustration are neatly shunted out of the picture. It is meant to be the triumph of left-brain logic.

But in fact, the emotional charge is always there. Under the ‘battery-hen’ conditions of the typical call-centre, with no opportunities to walk off your frustrations, it is not hard to see how stress and anxiety can rise dangerously.

Philosophy

My client, Beth, was finding it impossible to cope with the customers’ anger being directed at her, when none of the issues were her own fault. They kept talking as though she personally was responsible each time, and she began to suffer irrational guilt feelings that were upsetting her sleep. Some of the verbal attacks were upsetting and hurtful, she confided.

I said this was the first thing she must appreciate  –  to realize that she is merely a conduit for the frustrations of the customer. Frequently, the complaint is not entirely justified, and the caller may well have some personal problems that they are wanting to take out on you. This could be anything from a chronic illness to an unhappy marriage, and at those times you need to remember that their problem is likely to be much worse than your momentary feelings of insult. You can be glad that you do not have their problems.

Then there was some advice that I’d heard from other call-centre workers. One was to manage your breathing. As the tension rises, your breathing will tend to become shallower and faster. So you can counteract this by taking deep breaths, right down into your stomach, until you are feeling calmer. The other was to identify particular triggers that seem to anger you, and to be ready for these, so you can handle your response. For example, Beth said she was always irritated when people demanded to know her name. So I taught her to have a response ready, explaining calmly that all calls were logged, and that the dialogue could be officially investigated at any time.

Finally, I reminded her that she was in a challenging job, where the handling of difficult customers was part of the required skill-set. If she cultivated the art of turning an unhappy customer into a happy customer, she would experience a particular kind of satisfaction at having overcome such a difficult challenge. And that was apart from being acknowledged as a master of her profession, and doubtless given recognition and reward for this.

Key points about call-centre stress

  • Call-centres are a prime example of Emotional Intelligence
  • Difficult customers present a major challenge for the agent
  • There are practised routines for deflecting a caller’s anger

Others are logging their comments…

Why not you? Give us your frank opinion now. Make an important difference to a big debate.

[Reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News]

Book Motivational Speaker, BBC guest-broadcaster and best-selling Author, Carole Spiers in person for your next conference for charismatic, high-impact workplace stress management presentations and organisational change strategies.  See Carole live http://bit.ly/TUWbX

Or check-out our latest ideas about stress help, instant accesas to stress reduction products http://bit.ly/FjL5L and stress management services aimed to reduce stress and delivered to blue-chip clients from IBM to Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company in UK, Dubai, UAE and worldwide at www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk

Contact Carole  for a FREE stress management strategies consultation – Tel:  +44 (0) 20 8954 1593  or email info@carolespiersgroup.co.uk.    She is dedicated to supporting your long-term growth through talent retention rooted in effective stress management.

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Stress Help: When Silence is Stressful

 They call it ‘solitary silence’  –  that internalising of frustration and resentment, that is known to be a threat to executive health but which has been regarded as the usual reaction to ensure that your job security is not threatened. There is a long tradition of keeping quiet about one’s grievances, however much stress and anxiety they set up, partly also out of reluctance to be seen criticising the management, but also as a measure of dignity and self-respect.

However, recent research into occupational stress has demonstrated the physical harm that can come from solitary silence. According to the Stress Research Centre Institute at Stockholm University, male workers who suppressed their anger in respect of unfair treatment in the workplace, are 40 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack or die from heart disease than those who vent their anger. (The study tracked 2755 men for ten years, comparing work and health factors.)

Clearly, then, there is an urgent need to create an opportunity for everyone to vent their feelings in order to minimise and relieve the stress effects. The most obvious method is known as ‘upward feedback’, where workers report candidly on their perception of their managers. This view from below provides valuable research for top directors to assess performance, though it may affect relations between employee and supervisor.

Unfortunately, that traditional tendency to keep quiet about problems in the workplace, has actually increased.  All over the world, solitary silence remains a silent killer that destroys resistance to stress.

‘School report’

Harith was a young dental technician trained in a big factory in Mumbai, where the discipline was very strict and ‘manager/employee dynamics’ merely consisted of inspection and correction.

When he got his new job in a smaller and more sophisticated firm in Dubai, he had to acclimatise to very different surroundings, and found it more disorienting than he had expected. In particular, he was completely unprepared for the quarterly ‘upward feedback’ exercise.

He listened in astonishment the first time the HR Manager explained that employees were being encouraged to set down their grievances on paper, with full licence to describe the perceived shortcomings of named managers. What was this?  Was he meant to write some kind of school-report about his own boss?

Harith did actually have some grievances. An uneven workload that was the result of inefficient management and a particular grievance against his having to act as receptionist and switchboard at certain times.  He had also heard persistent rumours about bullying by one of the supervisors.

All this tended to exacerbate his work stress, but he found himself unable to take the ‘opportunity to vent’ that was on offer.

I was just coming to the end of a training project on healthy workplace culture at that firm, when I happened to talk to Harith in the canteen. As a counsellor, I could instantly detect stress symptoms, and I asked him what was wrong. He said he couldn’t bring himself to fill in the feedback form on his line manager.

I was able to tell the HR team that here was the perfect test for their new skills in creating an environment of trust within the team. I hope they succeeded.

Key points about ‘solitary silence’

  • New research proves the danger of internalising grievances
  • ‘Opportunities to vent’ need to be provided for employees
  • Upward feedback, reporting on superiors, is one major outlet

Do you have strong views on this aspect of stress reduction?  Then give us the benefit of your stress management strategies

[Reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News]

Book Motivational Speaker, BBC guest-broadcaster and best-selling Author, Carole Spiers in person for your next conference for charismatic, high-impact stress management presentations and organisational change strategies.  See Carole live http://bit.ly/TUWbX

Or check-out our latest professional stress reduction products http://bit.ly/FjL5L and stress management services aimed to reduce stress and delivered to blue-chip clients from IBM to Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company in UK, Dubai, UAE and worldwide at www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk

Contact Carole  for a FREE stress management strategies consultation – Tel:  +44 (0) 20 8954 1593  or email info@carolespiersgroup.co.uk.    She is dedicated to supporting your long-term growth through talent retention rooted in effective stress management.

 

 

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